September 9, 2005
SACRAMENTO -- Following an emergency public hearing yesterday, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) Executive Officer approved a staff proposal to enact a temporary regulatory amendment that allows California to maximize its own fuel supply and reduce its reliance on Gulf Coast oil. California imports of Gulf Coast petroleum products have been cut 5 percent to 10 percent because of damage to regional production facilities by Hurricane Katrina.
"In addition to California's aggressive efforts to conserve fuel, this emergency action is the only alternative immediately available to allow California to balance the supply of gasoline with our daily demand," said Michael Scheible, ARB Deputy Executive Officer, who conducted the hearing. "Locally, it will help to stabilize both the availability and price of gasoline. Nationally, it means we don't need additional fuel from areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina, where all available resources must be used to offset the devastation caused by the storm."
At the public hearing, Scheible took testimony on staff's proposal to relax the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) standard for Phase 3 California Reformulated Gasoline from today until October 31, 2005. The RVP of gasoline is a measurement of its ability to evaporate. The standards differ by season; in summer when heat and sunlight react with emissions to form ozone, a component of smog, the standard is 7.00 pounds per square inch (psi). To meet the summertime RVP standard, refiners typically remove more volatile butanes and pentanes from gasoline blends. Relaxing summertime constraints to the wintertime 9.0 psi standard allows those components to be used, thus increasing the volume of available fuel.
ARB's action echoes a similar move by U.S. EPA last week that also seeks to minimize or prevent supply disruptions of gasoline. California's effort does not affect the makeup or supply of diesel fuel, which does not have the seasonal variations in composition common in gasoline blends. The percent of ethanol used in gasoline was not addressed either, based on supply and distribution limitations. However, ARB staff is continuing to take public comments on whether additional modifications to California's fuel regulations would increase supplies during the emergency period.
As a result of the relaxed RVP standard, ARB staff estimates emissions of motor vehicle related hydrocarbons will rise about 50 tons per day above the typical statewide on-road output of 800 tons per day. There are no expected increases in particulate matter, nitrogen oxides or toxic air contaminants.
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The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.