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May 8, 2014

End sought to western Pa. summer gas requirement

PITTSBURGH — Drivers in parts of western Pennsylvania see gas prices rise each summer due to a regulatory requirement aimed at reducing emissions, but that could change starting next year.

Officials decided in 1999 to require gas stations in a seven-county region around Pittsburgh – including Westmoreland – to switch to a “summer blend” of gasoline from May to mid-September.

The state House approved a bill Monday to seek an end to the regulations, and the state Senate approved House amendments to its measure on Wednesday. If approved, the change would have to be approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA regulates gasoline sold in the summer months to reduce emissions that contribute to ground-level ozone, the main component of smog, and diminish the effects of ozone-related health problems, according to the agency’s website.

State Sen. Elder Vogel Jr., R-Beaver, said the requirement has meant a 10- to 15-cent increase in gas prices per gallon in the region compared with neighboring counties and Ohio.

“I think we don’t need it anymore. It was a hidden tax basically on the seven counties in southwestern Pennsylvania,” Vogel told the Beaver County Times. “We have no steel mills anymore.”

The legislation would eliminate statutory requirements for low Reid vapor pressure gasoline in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties during the summer months.

A related bill approved in 2012 required the state environmental department to study the effect of the proposed changes, Vogel said.

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