Fuel Marketers Seek EPA Summer Fuel Waiver

Decline in demand amid crimped travel in the U.S. leaves pipelines full of winter fuel.

March 26, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—NACS, NATSO, the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA) and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA) sent a joint industry letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking a waiver of summer gasoline sale requirements amid concerns about potential fuel shortages.

Fuel demand is falling dramatically amid emergency declarations limited travel and work activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “This creates a unique challenge for fuel retailers as the industry approaches the May 1, 2020, transition date,” the NACS joint industry letter stated.

“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,” the letter stated.

If terminal operators can’t take the summer grade fuel, the pipelines could back up. What’s more, because some of the pipelines carry gasoline and diesel, without the waiver, winter blends of fuels at the retail pump would not be permitted for sale after June 1.

A waiver of the federal Reid Vapor Pressure requirements can help avoid bottlenecks in the system.

“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,” NACS stated.

The EPA, with the concurrence of the Department of Energy, has the authority to issue a temporary regulatory waiver under a provision in the Clean Air Act that would allow terminals and retail pumps to empty out the winter fuel grades from their pipelines and retail pumps.

Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina have already granted waivers or indicated that they would not enforce continued sales of winter gasoline blends after the deadline.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) also have asked EPA to grant a waiver, reports TTnews.com.

“There’s going to be product there, but you need to get the diesel fuel to places where we access it,” Glen Kedzie, ATA’s energy and environmental affairs counsel, said. “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.”

ATA  wants the government to remove all impediments for trucking companies so they can continue to deliver food, medicine and other essentials in a timely manner.

“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,” the ATA letter states.