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EPA Proposes Approval of New Hampshire Fuel Requirements That Will Preserve Air Quality Benefits of Federal Reformulated Gasoline Without Oxygenate Mandate

Release Date: 01/22/04
Contact Information: Contact: David Deegan, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1017

For Immediate Release: January 22, 2004; Release # 04-01-08

Today, EPA is proposing to approve a rule allowing New Hampshire to opt-out of the federal reformulated gasoline program (RFG), and instead to implement its own fuel program known as "Oxygen Flexible Reformulated Gasoline." New Hampshire's new gasoline requirements preserve many of the air quality benefits of the federal program, while eliminating the oxygenate requirement which has led many gasoline providers to add methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) to gasoline.

The Regional Administrator of EPA New England, Robert W. Varney, noted that "EPA's action will allow New Hampshire residents to continue to enjoy the air quality benefits of cleaner gasoline, while ending the oxygenate requirements which have increased the risk of MTBE contamination of ground and surface waters in New Hampshire. We have worked closely with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services on its new fuel requirements and appreciate the state's thoughtful and balanced approach to a complex situation."

Because of its substantial air quality benefits, New Hampshire and many other states have been included in the federal reformulated gasoline program since 1995. This program has achieved substantial emission reductions from motor vehicles of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (precursors of ozone), and other air toxics such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene. Specifically, the cleaner burning gasoline has provided an estimated 34 percent reduction in air toxics, a 28 percent reduction of VOCs, and a nine percent reduction of nitrogen oxides. These reductions in air toxic pollution are equivalent to removing approximately 200,000 vehicles from New Hampshire roads.

However, the use of MTBE by many gasoline providers to meet the oxygenate requirements of the federal gasoline program has increased the risk of contamination of some drinking water and ground water resources. MTBE is a highly soluble compound which, when spilled or leaked, quickly spreads through groundwater and can affect water supplies. The Clean Air Act requires that the federal reformulated gasoline contain oxygenates. EPA has supported legislative changes to the Act to modify these oxygenate requirements to address concerns about MTBE.

By opting out of the federal gasoline program and creating similar gasoline requirements without the oxygenate mandate, New Hampshire's new fuel requirements will preserve the public health benefits from reduced levels of smog-forming pollutants, while reducing the risks of MTBE contamination of water supplies.

New Hampshire completed its "State Implementation Plan," which identifies in detail how New Hampshire will comply with federal air quality standards, on Oct. 31, 2003. EPA is moving forward expeditiously to approve that request. EPA will shortly open a 30-day public comment period on the proposed approval of the New Hampshire plan. The state's new fuel requirement would replace the existing federal RFG fuel requirement in the southern New Hampshire counties of Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rockingham, and Strafford.

Related Information:
MTBE in Drinking Water
Proposed Rule PDF Icon - Estimated Download Time: < 1 min. (150 Kb @ 56Kb)