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Release Date: 06/04/1999
Contact Information: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a $20,350 fine against a Portland, Conn., fuel distributor for illegally selling high sulfur diesel to numerous towns and bus companies.

EPA this week issued a complaint against Yankee Terminals, which sold the fuel to companies and towns that unknowingly dispensed the non-compliant fuel into buses and trucks. EPA attempted to resolve this matter last fall through a notice of violation, but efforts to negotiate a settlement failed and EPA issued this complaint this week.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, distributors are required to deliver low sulfur fuel - containing .05 percent sulfur or less by weight - for use in on-road vehicles. High sulfur diesel, which costs less, is commonly used as heating oil and fuel for off-road equipment, such as cranes, generators, boats and locomotives.

Use of high sulfur diesel in motor vehicles increases emissions of small particulate matter, which can lead to severe lung problems and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections. Small particulate matter also contributes to the formation of the smoke and soot that is widely associated with diesel engines.

"Selling high sulfur fuel as if it were low sulfur fuel pollutes the air and threatens public health," said Ira Leighton, director of EPA's Office of Environmental Stewardship. "EPA has been working with Yankee Terminals for more than six months to reach a settlement, but at this point, we are filing a complaint against the company to get them to pay the penalty."

EPA initially discovered the violations during an inspection of an East Hampton bus company in November. After determining that the fuel supplier was Yankee, EPA investigators subsequently discovered that Yankee supplied non-compliant fuel to eight other fuel tanks at municipal and bus fleet facilities in the towns of East Hampton, Brooklyn, Bozrah and Willington. EPA then did an investigation of the fuel distributor's Portland facility.

Yankee has since taken steps to remedy its violations.