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Lower gas prices coming to the Charlotte area


RALEIGH – Motorists in the Charlotte area should benefit from lower gasoline prices next summer due to a change in gasoline standards that state environmental officials gained approval for this year.

The change will allow service stations in Gaston and Mecklenburg counties to sell the same kind of gasoline as in other parts of the state, rather than switching to more expensive, low-volatility fuel during the summer months. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, had required low-volatility gasoline for many years in the Triad, Triangle and Charlotte metro areas under state plans for reducing ozone levels.

The EPA approved the fuel change for the Triad and Triangle areas in 2014, but the Charlotte area wasn’t included because it was not meeting the 2008 federal, 8-hour ozone standard at the time.

The N.C. Division of Air Quality, or DAQ, requested the fuel change for Charlotte this year because the metropolitan area no longer violates the 2008 federal ozone standard and low-volatility gasoline had no discernable effects on air quality in the state. In July, the EPA officially designated the Charlotte area as attainment or in compliance with the 2008 ozone standard due to improvements in air quality, and it later approved the fuel change, effective on Oct. 16.

The EPA adopted a new, more stringent 8-hour ozone standard on Oct. 1. The federal agency does not plan to designate attainment and non-attainment areas for the 2015 standard until October 2017, but DAQ’s preliminary analyses indicate that all of North Carolina should comply with the new limit.

A DAQ analysis in 2014 found that low-volatility gasoline cost about 7 cents more per gallon on average than gasoline with less stringent vapor requirements. The relaxation of the fuel standard saved motorists in the Triad and Triangle about $18 million total from June 1 to Sept. 15, 2014, and it would have saved Charlotte motorists about $8.4 million during that period.

Low-volatility gasoline had been required as a way to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which contribute to the formation of ozone in the lower atmosphere. However, DAQ found that naturally-occurring levels of VOCs from trees and other vegetation overwhelm the amounts coming from gasoline, so the stricter vapor limits had virtually no benefits for air quality in North Carolina.

In addition, ozone levels have declined substantially across the state during the past 15 years, due to state and federal measures to reduce emissions from industry, power plants and motor vehicles. North Carolina had its cleanest year on record for air quality in 2014, with no days exceeding the ozone standard for the first time since air monitoring began in the early 1970s. The state had only one ozone exceedance day in 2013 and two in 2015.

More information on air quality issues can be found at the DAQ website, .

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