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Motorists, businesses in Triangle and Triad see big savings in gas prices after rule change

RALEIGH – Motorists and businesses in the Triangle and Triad saw significant savings at the gas pumps this summer, thanks to a rule change by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources that was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in May.
DENR staff estimate the relaxation of the rule resulted in cost savings of about seven cents per gallon of gas for motorists and businesses for a total savings of more than $18 million in the Triangle and Triad regions from June 1 to Sept. 15.
For many years, EPA rules required gasoline in North Carolina’s Triangle and Triad regions to be formulated to emit lower amounts of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, during the summer months to reduce ground level ozone. Costs associated with the seasonal formula change were passed on to retailers, resulting in higher gas prices during the summer months.
However, staff with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources used years of the agency’s modeling and analysis of air quality data to convince the federal agency that the previous rule was based on outdated science. In fact, the summertime gasoline requirement was having an insignificant impact on air quality in the Triangle and Triad while increasing the cost of gasoline.
Because of the timing of the rule change, refineries were forced to send low volatility gasoline to start the season, but switched over to the less expensive, standard volatility gasoline mid-season. The savings to gasoline service stations in the counties impacted by the relaxation of the fuel requirement is substantial.
“The EPA approval to change the summertime gasoline standard in the Triangle and Triad saves consumers and businesses money while having no impact on air quality,” said Sheila Holman, director of the N.C. Division of Air Quality. “Science is always evolving with advancements in technology and newfound information. The collaboration between industry and DENR to challenge outdated policy and apply new science to air quality management shows that great progress can be made when experts work together.”
Holman noted that the levels of ozone, one of the benchmarks used to measure air quality, have not exceeded the standard anywhere in North Carolina so far this year.
Ground level ozone is formed when nitrous oxides, or NOx, which are chiefly produced from power plants and automobiles, react with VOCs in the presence of direct sunlight. North Carolina has high levels of naturally occurring VOCs. Scientific studies have demonstrated that in areas with high natural VOC concentrations, reductions in VOCs have no discernible effect on ozone levels and other pollutants. VOCs come from gasoline service stations and factories as well as biogenic sources such as trees and other vegetation.
The EPA approved the rule change in May for parts of North Carolina and Florida.The rule change was prompted by a conversation between a DENR staff member and an industry representative. The conversation revealed that there is not a need for limiting man-made VOC emissions during the summer months because of an abundance of naturally occurring VOCs in the state.

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