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EPA Upholds Reformulated Gas Requirement in California, New York, and Connecticut

Release Date: 06/02/2005
Contact Information:


Contact: John Millett, 202-564-4355/ millett.john@epa.gov

(06/02/05) EPA will reject petitions made by the states of California, New York and Connecticut to waive the oxygen content requirement for reformulated gasoline (RFG).

In announcing the action Assistant Administrator of Air Jeff Holmstead explained: "Congress has required the use of oxygenates as part of the clean fuels program and has made it clear that this requirement can only be waived if a state demonstrates that it prevents or interferes with the state's ability to meet national air quality standards. California, New York and Connecticut did not make this demonstration."

RFG is a cleaner-burning gasoline required by the Clean Air Act to be used in certain metropolitan areas of the United States with the worst ozone air pollution. It has been used since 1995 and continues to be a highly effective strategy to reduce harmful emissions from motor vehicles that cause ozone, commonly called smog. RFG also reduces emissions of harmful toxics, such as benzene. The Clean Air Act also requires RFG to contain 2 percent oxygen by weight. The law does not specify which oxygenate must be used and most refiners use either ethanol or MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether). RFG sold in California, New York and Connecticut, however, contains only ethanol, since each state has banned the use of MTBE due to water contamination concerns.

Today's action follows an extensive review of the information submitted by each state in support of its petition. This is EPA's second response to California, which sued EPA after the agency denied the state's original petition in 2001. Today's decision was made after EPA reviewed new information submitted by California and after EPA scientists and engineers conducted additional analysis to address the 9th Circuit Court's decision to vacate the agency's original denial.
While EPA agrees with California's claim that an oxygen content waiver would lead to a decrease in certain vehicle emissions that contribute to the formation of smog and particulate matter, EPA concludes that the overall impact on emissions is slight. The agency found that total volatile organic compound (VOC) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are likely to decrease with a waiver while carbon monoxide (CO) emissions are likely to increase.

EPA's denial of California's petition is based on the lack of evidence proving that the emission impacts of a waiver would lead to any earlier attainment of the air quality standards for smog or particulate matter than would occur without a waiver. In other words, California has not demonstrated that the oxygen content requirement prevents or interferes with the state's efforts to achieve clean air.

EPA found that neither New York nor Connecticut submitted the technical data necessary for the agency to determine what impact the waiver would have on emissions and air quality. Without this information, EPA could not evaluate whether the oxygen content requirement prevents or interferes with attainment of the smog or particulate matter standards, and therefore must deny the waiver request.

Since Congress created the RFG program in 1990, much has been learned about cleaner-burning gasoline. The administration supports efforts by Congress to remove the oxygen requirement from the RFG program and replace it with a flexible national renewable fuels program.

"This legislation would provide California, Connecticut, New York and other RFG areas the relief they are seeking through these waiver requests without compromising the benefits of clean fuel," said Holmstead. For more information on this action and the national RFG program, visit: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/rfg_regs.htm#waiver