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Environmental Enforcement: $2.5m Fine for Colo. Gas Distributors

Three Colorado petroleum distributors are to pay $2.5 million to resolve claims they illegally mixed and distributed more that 1 million gallons of gasoline that did not meet Clean Air Act emissions and fuel quality requirements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice have announced.

Rocky Mountain Pipeline System, LLC, Western Convenience Stores, Inc., and Offen Petroleum, Inc. will pay the $2.5 million civil penalty and conduct an environmental project designed to offset the harm caused by their alleged failure to meet federal gasoline quality requirements.

Gasoline that does not meet Clean Air Act standards for fuel can result in increased emissions from car tailpipes, which can harm human health, affect vehicle performance, and in some cases can damage engines and emission controls, the EPA says.

The EPA says that the companies produced millions of gallons of illegal gasoline by mixing natural gasoline, a byproduct of natural gas production, and ethanol with gasoline previously certified to meet Clean Air Act requirements at two terminals in Colorado. The Clean Air Act allows refiners to produce gasoline by adding other fuel sources to previously certified gasoline; however, the blended gasoline must still meet applicable emissions and fuel standards including compliance with sampling, testing, and quality assurance requirements.

The companies’ alleged gasoline blending operations may have resulted in more than 10 tons of excess emissions of volatile organic compounds – or VOCs – the EPA says. VOCs can produce smog or ground level ozone. Human exposure to ozone can cause lung damage, aggravate asthma, and cause difficulty breathing. The EPA sets gasoline standards to reduce air pollutants from motor vehicles, such as VOCs, particulate matter and toxic air pollutants, because they contribute to serious public health and environmental problems.

To offset any excess emissions, the companies will install a geodesic dome cover on a gasoline storage tank at one of the terminals where the fuel blending took place. The cover is expected to reduce VOC emissions by more than 8.6 tons annually.

“Complying with the Clean Air Act’s fuel regulations is critical to ensuring that our nation’s important emissions standards are met,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s settlement shows that EPA is committed to protecting the air we breathe by reducing illegal air pollution.”

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