PITTSBURGH - It's easy to see gas prices keep going up in Western Pennsylvania. However, Allegheny County drivers are about to see a much bigger spike.
Allegheny County will be the only county in our area selling a summer blend of gasoline as of June 1, and that gas could be 30 cents more per gallon.
11 Investigates looked into the reason why. It goes back to a 1997 rule by the EPA that forced several counties in our area to use different gas in the summer to reduce ozone. With advancements in car technology, the EPA decided last year that we could stop using it. That has happened in every county, except Allegheny.
Countywide Petroleum President Tim Redshaw told Channel 11 it came down to a paperwork delay, with Armstrong, Fayette, Beaver, Butler, Westmoreland and Washington counties getting it all in on time. Allegheny County's deputy director of environmental health said that's not true.
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"We keep hearing there was a paperwork delay," said Jim Kelly. "There's no paperwork delay."
Kelly told us Allegheny County has its own air quality agency, one of two in the state. Years ago, it adopted the same gas rule as the rest of the state. The county couldn't start its paperwork to drop the rule, until the state had done its work.
"They submitted that to EPA last May in 2018," he said of the state analysis. "As soon as they did that, we started our rulemaking process and we ran with that as fast as we could."
Because of steps in the process, the EPA hasn't formally gotten rid of Allegheny County's rule yet, but the county says it will very soon. In fact, the public comment period for the EPA plan to remove the rule ends in late May. Allegheny County says as far as it is concerned, the rule is gone.
"The rule doesn't exist," Kelly said. "It's impractical to enforce, it's actually impossible to enforce."
Gas distributors say they don't see it that way. They believe since the rule officially still is on the EPA books, they'll get sued for not selling summer gas. That's why it is still being brought into Allegheny County for sale in June.
"Allegheny County is going to be on an island, unfortunately, during the next two or three months," Redshaw said.
They say even if the rule changes tomorrow, distributors already have moved the more expensive gas to the county and it could take months to sell off. That means local drivers will either be resigned to paying higher prices or will have to travel out of county to save a bit of money.
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