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Concerned over potential fuel shortages, American Trucking Associations and several other fuel marketing associations have sent letters to the Environmental Protection Agency seeking a waiver of summer gasoline sale requirements.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in severe travel limitations, emergency declarations and the closing of nonessential businesses which has created a dramatic decrease in gasoline demand,” said the letter dated March 23, written by Glen Kedzie, ATA’s energy and environmental affairs counsel. “With significant amounts of winter grade gasoline remaining in tanks, terminals and pipelines — along with the inability to sell it after the May 1, 2020, transition date — terminal operators will have limited capacity to take loads of summer grade gasoline.”
Because some of the pipelines carry gas and diesel, without the waiver, winter blends of fuels at the retail pump would not be permitted for sale after June 1, according to Kedzie.
“There’s going to be product there, but you need to get the diesel fuel to places where we access it,” Kedzie told Transport Topics. “We can’t get to the diesel fuel unless we get the winter gas hairball out of the drain. As of May 1, the terminals can only dish out summer grade.”
“During these exceptionally trying times, it is critical for our country to remove all impediments for trucking companies to keep delivering the nation’s supply of food, medicine and other essentialities,” the ATA letter said. “With more than 80% of U.S. communities relying exclusively on trucks for their freight needs, we must ensure the trucking industry’s fuel supplies keep flowing to the more than 600,000 interstate motor carriers nationwide.”
ATA said that EPA, with the concurrence of the Department of Energy, has the statutory authority to issue a temporary regulatory waiver under a provision in the Clean Air Act that would allow terminals and retail pumps to continue to empty out the winter fuel grades from their pipelines and retail pumps.
ATA sent the letter to the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance seeking the waiver of the summer federal Reid Vapor Pressure requirements for gasoline sale ahead of the May 1 terminal deadline and the June 1 retail sale deadline.
ATA said that without relief from the agency, pipeline bottlenecks will inhibit the conveyance of diesel fuel to distributors and retail locations. Four states — Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida — have already granted waivers or indicated that they would not enforce continued sales of winter gasoline blends after the deadline, ATA said.
In addition to the ATA request, the National Association of Convenience Stores, Natso, Petroleum Marketers Association of America and Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America, also sent a joint letter to EPA seeking the waiver.
“With significant amounts of winter grade fuel remaining in tanks, terminals and pipelines, and the inability to sell it after the May 1, 2020, transition date, terminal operators will have limited capacity to take loads of summer grade fuel,” said the fuel marketers’ letter. “If terminal operators cannot take the summer grade fuel, the pipelines are expected to back up. Eventually, refineries will be forced to shut down production. These problems may be exacerbated for pipelines that ship both gasoline and diesel.”
While the drop in gasoline demand will force changes throughout the supply chain, this particular issue can be avoided with a waiver for a fixed, clear period of time to allow marketers to sell through the winter grade fuel on hand today, the letter added.
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