Federal officials today denied a request from state officails that would have allowed gas stations in southwestern Pennsylvania to sell winter-blend gasoline because of dwindling supplies.
State officials had hoped to get federal permission to temporarily continue distributing the more plentiful winter blend.
But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it believed that supplies were adequate and turned down a request from state Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer, who on Thursday asked the EPA to temporarily waive gasoline volatility requirements. Those requirements are intended to reduce auto emissions in summer, when ozone levels are high.
The waiver would allow area distributors to buy gasoline from suppliers in Ohio, West Virginia and areas of Pennsylvania that are not subject to volatility standards required in the Pittsburgh area because of its history of air pollution.
By federal law, Pittsburgh area distributors cannot sell winter blend gas after May 1, and retailers cannot sell it after June 1 without a waiver.
Deliveries of compliant fuels have been delayed five to seven days because of pipeline disruptions during the change-over from winter to summer gas and because of power outages and mechanical problems at East Coast refineries, according to DEP officials and industry analysts. Flooding in the south also has contributed to the problem because barges can't get through with fuel, they said.
"Everything lined up like the perfect storm and we can't get resupplied. There's not enough product," said Nancy Maricondi, executive director of the Pittsburgh-based Petroleum Retailers and Auto Repair Association.
But EPA officials said they contacted several gasoline suppliers in the Pittsburgh area and determined that the shortage isn't as bad as state officials said.
"Suppliers informed EPA that there will be several major deliveries today and over the weekend, that supply is adequate to address demand in the area and that they do not believe a waiver is necessary. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and we are leaving the waiver request open so we can take action quickly if circumstances warrant," said a statement from EPA spokeswoman Stacy Kika.