EPA Lifts Gasoline Restrictions In Wake Of Hurricane Sandy

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In 1990, the Clean Air Act amendments set out special rules regarding the manufacture and sale of gasoline in the U.S. This week, some of those rules have been suspended in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

The amendments require that reformulated gasoline, or RFG, be used in cities with high levels of smog (though other cities can mandate its use if they like). RFG burns more cleanly than conventional gas, usually because it's been treated with oxygenates. Today, RFG is used in 17 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Which is fine most of the time. But earlier this week, Sandy swept ashore, damaging petroleum storage facilities and causing severe pipeline delays. That's resulted in long lines at gas stations across the Northeast, and made it much harder for oil companies to distribute fuel.

According to Reuters, Lisa Jackson, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has temporarily lifted the RFG requirement for states affected by the storm. The announcement was made yesterday in a letter sent to governors of those states, as well as governors of states that supply gasoline to the affected areas. 

The EPA waiver allows stations to sell conventional gasoline rather than RFG, and it also permits some states to blend RFG with conventional gas to stretch dwindling supplies. The restrictions have been lifted through November 20. (To see a PDF of Jackson's letter, click here.)

Obviously, this won't cure the Northeast's current woes, but it should make the recovery move a little quicker. If you have thoughts about other ways that the federal government might speed up the process of getting back to normal, feel free to share them in the comments below.


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Comments (7)
  1. I thought the major issues are electricity shortage to gas station that still have gas and gas shortages to the stations that have electricity. Gas shortages are caused by the "delivery" problem and lack of electricity problem.

    The ports in VA and MD are all back in working conditions now.

    Anyway, I wonder if a lot of gas are being used for "generators"...

    Many schools are still closed due to lack of power, so are many businesses, so I don't see why the demand for gas is high.

  2. Xiaolong: As someone who's been through this fairly often, I can assure you that people still need to drive. They need to get to the grocery store, to the hardware store, to the bank, and if they're lucky, to work. And since most people likely didn't bother to fill up before the storm hit, the situation's a little worse.

  3. @Richard,

    Sure, I believe that. I used to live in East Coast/South East and go through storms multiple times per year...

    But I was reading this article on CNBC, it said:"The problem is not gasoline supplies, but the ability to distribute it, especially from the critical terminal area around Linden, N.J., whic his lost power and was hit by the storm surge."


    The key is NOT gasoline supplies, it is problem with lack of power to dispense it and more and more people are using gas to fuel their generators.

    Doesn't this further showcase the issue with "gasolines"? It uses the additional electricity to "distribute" it...

  4. Oh, my point was that whether EPA changes emission standards or NOT shouldn't make a difference in gas supplies since it is lack of power that caused majority of the issues...

  5. Most likely a political move to take away any ammo from Republicans to use against the President.

  6. Yes, distribution and lack of electricity are by far the biggest problems right now. However, the federal government can't do much about those issues. Easing restrictions for the next few weeks is about the only substantive action that the EPA can take. And although it won't have much impact in the short term, it should help replenish supply a little faster once roads are clear and electricity returns.

  7. There isn't much the Gov't can do besides having the national guard be present at gas stations and set-up the portable voting stations where there aren't any, due to the storm...


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