Gas Stations Scramble To Meet State's New Clean Air Rule

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, March 27, 2009

Although the deadline falls on April Fools day…the state says it’s not fooling around when it comes to enforcing new equipment standards at thousands of California gas stations. 
Starting this Wednesday, the California Air Resources Board will fine service stations that don’t have updated clean air systems on their gas pumps. 

Back in the year 2000, the State Air Resources Board voted to require all gas stations in California to install Enhanced Vapor Recovery systems.  That requirement takes effect on April first of this year. 
The vapor recovery system, known as EVR, is simply a sleeve that covers a hose that stretches from an underground  gas storage tank…to the pump at street level…and finally it fits over the spout where the gas pours into your car. 
It prevents dangerous gasoline vapors from entering the air that people breathe… 
“It enflames lung tissue and it creates serious problems for people with cardio-pulminary disease. 
That’s Air Resources Board spokesman Dmitri Stanich (STAN-itch) standing in a noisy auto shop in Sacramento.  Stanich explains that most California service stations currently use outdated vapor recovery equipment and that’s why the state is requiring them to modernize their pumps… 
“Emission reduction technology has not been upgraded since the 1970’s…so the requirement to put this new technology in will reduce emissions by 25 tons per day.   
The ARB estimates only about a quarter of the state’s more than 35-thousand gas stations will meet this week’s deadline to install new vapor recovery equipment.  The board says gas station owners who don’t have their pumps ready on time will have to pay fines.  The fines will vary, but could reach thousands of dollars for owners who have multiple violations… 
“I have shells in San Diego and I have Chevrons in northern California…”
Gil Moore used to own 36 gas stations.  But, in the past year he’s sold two dozen of them because he can’t afford the expenses required to install the new vapor recovery system… 
“And I still have four stations that are out of compliance and I just decided to shut one down in Carmichael, California because the 80-thousand dollar price just isn’t worth it…”
Other gas station owners are experiencing financial problems.  They complain the tight credit market is making it nearly impossible to borrow money to buy their equipment. 
That’s getting the attention of Los Angeles Area State Senator John Benoit.  He says the vapor recovery program doesn’t do much to clean up the air … 
“This is a small incremental additional improvement.  Very small.  We’re talking about going from 95-percent efficiency to 98 maybe 99-percent efficiency of capturing the component of pollution that’s present when you’re filling your car.  That will be a good thing but we can delay that a little bit when you consider the circumstances…”
Benoit and a few other state lawmakers are asking Governor Schwarzenegger to push the Air Resources Board to delay the EVR deadline for another year, after the economy recovers. 
And, some legislators in the state’s Black Caucus are joining in because they’re concerned about gas stations closing in urban neighborhoods.
Governor Schwarzenegger’s office says under state law the governor can’t force the Resources Board to delay its’ decision.  However, the governor wants to help gas stations get the credit they’ll need to install the updated clean air equipment.