Industry seeks more time to meet fuel rules

The Western States Petroleum Association on Aug. 13 petitioned the California Air Resources Board for a more reasonable timeframe for meeting new fuel rules approved by the board earlier this summer.

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Aug. 14 -- The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) on Aug. 13 petitioned the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for a more reasonable timeframe for meeting new fuel rules approved by the board earlier this summer. CARB has 30 days to respond.

CARB on June 14 amended California's reformulated gasoline rules to permit increased use of ethanol and lower-carbon fuels. The new rule gives refiners 2 years to comply or face punitive and costly penalties.

WSPA Chief Operating Officer Cathy Reheis-Boyd said, "We are not asking the board to change the new fuel specifications. We are simply asking the board to take into account that refiners also must comply with many other environmental regulations and construction realities when making major refinery changes; and that takes more time than the current rules provided."

In addition, testimony by the California Energy Commission (CEC) and refining companies at the CARB hearing demonstrated that fuel projects of this magnitude would require a more reasonable timeframe for companies to complete the complex tasks of designing new refining systems; obtaining numerous permits from local, regional, and state agencies; complying with the California Environmental Quality Act; and constructing, testing, and commissioning the new facilities.

CEC testified that based on its detailed modeling and surveys, it could take more than 4 years to complete the modifications. In fact, other major changes in California fuel formulations have taken at least 4 years to implement: California's cleaner-burning gasoline introduced in 1996 took 51 months, and California's Phase 3 cleaner-burning gasoline introduced in 2000 took 48½ months.

Reheis-Boyd said, "Our industry is committed to meeting these new fuel rules and is already working towards meeting them. But our companies need a reasonable timeframe to build the required facilities, given the lengthy process required to comply with numerous state and local regulations."

CEC also said a more reasonable timeframe "would minimize the risk of supply difficulties and associated price spikes for California consumers and businesses."

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