GOP letter asks EPA to relax gas rule to cut costs; environmentalist warns health would suffer

By: - June 8, 2022 6:25 am
Gas tank filling up

(andreas160578 | Pixabay )

A group of Wisconsin Republican lawmakers wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tuesday asking the EPA to lift the requirement to use reformulated gasoline in the state’s southeastern counties to save drivers money.

An environmental advocate warned that even if that does save money in the short term, it would impose higher costs on human health.

Reformulated gasoline is a blend that burns more cleanly than conventional gasoline. According to the EPA, the reformulated gas reduces the production of toxic pollutants that cause smog.

Congress passed legislation in 1990 to require reformulated gasoline in high smog areas of the U.S. The Milwaukee-Racine region, which includes Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha counties, is one of nine regions in the U.S. where reformulated gas has been required since 1995 under the Clean Air Act. 

In a letter to EPA director Michael Regan, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and 39 other state representatives and senators observe that gas prices have been soaring. Where reformulated gas is required, the letter states, gas prices are about 40 cents per gallon higher than in the rest of the state.

“With summer travel season now upon us, many citizens are thinking twice about major driving trips,” the letter states. “Any incentive at that gas pump to encourage people to follow through on their summer plans will stimulate the economy.”

The letter states that gaps in the current gasoline supply have driven up prices, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, recent inflation and the war in Ukraine. The letter also refers to executive orders from President Joe Biden that are “impacting the oil and gas industries,” but doesn’t offer specifics.

Chelsea Chandler, the Climate, Energy & Air Program director for Clean Wisconsin, said waiving the reformulated gasoline requirement would worsen air quality where the rule is in force.

“Air quality has improved in Wisconsin since the passage of the Clean Air Act, but we need to continue to enforce the rules that have led to these improvements and go further to reduce air pollution which still causes too many health issues in our state,” Chandler said. 

“We often get stuck in a trap of thinking that pollution control is costly and doing nothing is cheaper. But that’s false; doing nothing is very expensive,” she added. “Smog contributes to many health problems, such as asthma and other lung diseases, and those come with health costs — from treatment and hospital expenses to lost workdays and deaths.”

A recent analysis by Clean Wisconsin that compared pollution data with the ethnic backgrounds of people affected by it found that in Wisconsin, people of color are exposed to 26% more polluting particulate matter than the average state resident, and Black residents are exposed to 41% more.

“If our state legislators are serious about reducing energy costs, there are a number of other effective strategies like energy efficiency measures which save Wisconsin residents money without sacrificing their health,” Chandler said.


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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.