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EPA takes steps to reduce Denver's air pollution

Release Date: 3/25/2004
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      Denver -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in an effort to reduce ground-level ozone formation, today announced its denial of the Colorado Petroleum Association's request to allow use of gasoline with a volatility rating that exceeds Clean Air Act and EPA regulations in the Denver-Metropolitan area this summer. Volatility is the property of a liquid fuel that defines its evaporation characteristics.

      Robert E. Roberts, Regional Administrator for EPA Region 8, said, "After last year's exceedances of the new 8-hour ozone standard in the Denver-Metro area, we had to take a close look at what we could do to bring those levels down this summer. We have supported the efforts of metro-cities, the Regional Air Quality Council and the state to determine the appropriate course of action to lower ozone levels and protect human health and the environment."

      The Clean Air Act and EPA regulations allow gasoline volatility of 9.0 pounds per square inch or higher Reid Vapor Pressure (a common measure of gasoline volatility) during most of the year, but during the summer that limit drops to 7.8 psi RVP in the Denver-Metro area. The Colorado Petroleum Association asked the EPA to use enforcement discretion to waive enforcement of the 7.8 psi RVP gasoline standard during the 2004 summer season and allow use of 9.0 psi RVP gasoline.

      Given the area's record of continued attainment of the older 1-hour ozone standard, EPA has routinely granted the petroleum industry a waiver of the 7.8 psi RVP requirement since 1992. However, in light of last summer's high ozone levels that led to violations of EPA's more stringent 8-hour ozone standard, EPA no longer supports allowing the higher volatility gasoline.

      "Controlling gasoline volatility is an important tool in reducing the formation of ground-level ozone in the Denver-Metro area," said Richard Long, director of Region 8's Air and Radiation Program. "Ground-level ozone can cause a variety of health problems, including damaged lung tissue, reduced lung function and asthmatic reactions. The health risks associated with the higher ozone levels seen in 2003 are simply unacceptable. A lower RVP, such as 7.8 psi, will produce fewer emissions of volatile organic compounds that contribute to the formation of ozone."

      Earlier this year, EPA conducted a survey of the refiners serving the Denver area. Based on the survey responses and the Denver-Metro ozone violations of 2003, EPA determined that the 7.8 psi RVP requirement is attainable and should be enforced.

      Although industry argues that a 7.8 psi RVP gasoline would create possible supply issues and increased costs, EPA believes the industry survey responses indicate the impact to cost or supply will be minimal. In comparison, the resulting reduction in volatile organic compounds could be as much as 13 tons per day.

      For more information on Reid Vapor Pressure and gasoline volatility, see EPA's Web site:
      For more information on the Clean Air Act, see EPA's Web site: