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Release Date: 02/05/1998
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, Press Office, (617)918-1064

BOSTON -- The New England office of the Environmental Protection Agency reached a settlement with East Coast Petroleum of North Quincy, Massachusetts, that requires the company to pay $17,500 for selling high sulfur diesel fuel instead of a cleaner burning low sulfur diesel fuel to 13 municipalities in the greater Boston area for use in their motor vehicle fleets.

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

Use of high sulfur diesel in motor vehicles increases the emissions of small particulate matter, which can lead to severe lung problems and increases susceptibility to respiratory infection such as pneumonia, aggravation of acute and chronic bronchitis, and asthma. Small particulate matter also contributes to the formation of the smoke that is widely associated with diesel engines.

"East Coast Petroleum should have taken great care not to distribute the wrong fuel," said John P. DeVillars, administrator for EPA-New England. "After being notified of environmental violations, the company reorganized key management personnel, quickly replaced all high sulfur diesel fuel in its tanks, and established new training and billing procedures. Our enforcement program is a powerful tool in environmental protection."

EPA investigators initially discovered East Coast Petroleum's violations in September of 1996 while inspecting a fuel pump at the Malden Department of Public Works. Subsequent investigations found that one load of higher sulfur fuel had been delivered to 16 fuel pumps owned and operated by 12 other municipalities that contracted with East Coast Petroleum for fuel for their municipal fleet vehicles. They include: Arlington, Belmont, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Lexington, Medford, Newton, Somerville, Waltham and Watertown.

East Coast Petroleum's sale of high sulfur diesel led municipal fleet operators to use this fuel in their diesel fleet vehicles, rather than a clearner burning low sulfur fuel as required buy the federal Clean Air Act.