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August 03, 2012
States can end Stage II gas vapor recovery

One top item in EPA’s August 2011 Final Plan for Periodic Retrospective Reviews was elimination of the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) Stage II vapor recovery requirements for higher throughput gasoline dispensing facilities (GDF). The Agency has now followed through with a final rule that allows states in current or former ozone nonattainment areas to seek the EPA approval of state implementation plan (SIP) revisions that remove the Stage II requirements.

As specified in the 1990 CAA Amendments, states in ozone nonattainment areas were required to adopt Stage II programs, which ensured that gasoline vapors forced out of a vehicle’s tank during fueling were circulated into the GDF’s underground storage tank (UST) and not emitted into the atmosphere. New Stage II equipment is normally required to achieve 95 percent control effectiveness. Stage II programs were required in approximately 40 areas nationwide.

The CAA also allows the EPA to waive Stage II requirements when use of onboard refueling vapor recovery (ORVR) becomes widespread. ORVRs cause gasoline vapors that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere to be drawn into the vehicle engine, where they are burned as fuel. In 1994, the Agency issued its ORVR standards, and automobile manufacturers began installing ORVRs on new passenger cars in 1998.

Based on emissions tests of more than 1,100 in-use ORVR-equipped vehicles, the EPA has concluded that the average in-use efficiency of ORVR is 98 percent, bettering the legal requirement of 95 percent efficiency for ORVRs. The Agency also reports that simultaneous use of Stage II equipment and ORVRs causes a reduction in overall control system efficiency compared to what could have been achieved relative to the individual control efficiencies of either ORVR or Stage II emissions from the vehicle fuel tank. In addition, the EPA has been concerned that some states were not ensuring that Stage II equipment was being properly maintained and that control effectiveness was dropping far below the 95 percent requirement. All these factors have motivated the Agency to seek termination of the Stage II program.

The Agency estimates that implementation of the rule will result in recurring cost savings of about $3,000 per year for a typical GDF and an annual nationwide savings of up to $91 million if Stage II is phased out of approximately 30,600 GDFs.

INFO: Contact Lynn Dail at 919-541-2363.

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