The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved request for an emergency fuel waiver for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler approved the waiver on Thursday May 30, 2019, one day after receiving the request. The emergency fuel waiver was submitted after damage to the Buckeye Laurel Pipeline created a supply shortage of 7.8 psi Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) in Allegheny County. Low RVP gasoline in Western Pennsylvania is typically supplied from refineries on the East Coast and the Laurel Pipeline disruption has effectively cutoff the supply.
Many densely populated areas in Pennsylvania are required to use 7.8 psi RVP during the heavy driving season to help potentially limit pollution. However, the Clean Air Act allows the EPA in consultation with the Department of Energy (DOE), to grant exceptions to certain fuel requirements when there are emergency fuel shortages. The release states: “EPA has waived the low Reid vapor pressure (RVP) requirement in the Pennsylvania State Implementation Plan for gasoline sold in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania to minimize problems with the supply of gasoline. This waiver allows the sale of gasoline in Allegheny County that meets the 9.0 psi RVP standard applicable in other parts of Pennsylvania. EPA has also waived the prohibition on the blending of reformulated gasoline blendstock for oxygenated blending with other gasoline, blendstock or oxygenate in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. These waivers are effective through June 17, 2019.” This allows Allegheny County to keep their gasoline prices competitive with the surrounding counties while they wait for the Laurel Pipeline work to be completed.
Waivers are typically granted with a very narrow geographic scope and duration. The current waivers are confined to Allegheny County and will only continue past June 18, 2019 if the current emergency supply shortage has not been resolved. While we wait for updates on the Buckeye Laurel Pipeline, Allegheny County fuel suppliers and consumers can breathe easier knowing that they are going to avoid exorbitant prices due to unforeseen supply issues.