Colorado Petroleum Distributors Mixed Illegal Gasoline in Tanker Trucks

WASHINGTON, DC, May 5, 2011 (ENS) – Federal government agencies today announced a $2.5 million settlement with three Colorado petroleum distributors to resolve claims that they illegally mixed and distributed more than one million gallons of gasoline that did not meet Clean Air Act emissions and fuel quality requirements.

Rocky Mountain Pipeline System, Western Convenience Stores, Inc., and Offen Petroleum, Inc. will pay a $2.5 million civil penalty and conduct an environmental project designed to offset the harm caused by their failure to meet federal gasoline quality requirements.

The companies produced millions of gallons of illegal gasoline by mixing natural gasoline, a byproduct of natural gas production, and ethanol with gasoline previously certified to meet Clean Air Act requirements at two terminals in Colorado, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Justice Department.

They produced the illegal gasoline at Rocky Mountain’s terminals in Dupont and Fountain by blending natural gasoline and ethanol with previously certified gasoline in tanker trucks.

A tanker truck (not involved in this case) hauls gasoline. (Photo by Robert Couse-Baker)

The companies’ gasoline blending operations may have resulted in more than 10 tons of excess emissions of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which can produce smog or ground level ozone, the federal agencies said.

Human exposure to ozone can cause lung damage, aggravate asthma, and cause difficulty breathing.

The Clean Air Act allows refiners to produce gasoline by adding other fuel sources to previously certified gasoline, but the blended gasoline must still meet applicable emissions and fuel standards including compliance with sampling, testing, and quality assurance requirements.

To fulfill the project requirement, the companies will install a geodesic dome cover on a gasoline storage tank at the Dupont terminal where the fuel blending took place. The $200,000 cover is expected to reduce the emission of volatile organic compounds by more than 8.6 tons annually for at least five years.

“This settlement appropriately requires that the distributors undertake a project that will result in major annual reductions in emissions of volatile organic compounds in order to offset any harm they may have caused,” said Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.

“Providing and distributing gasoline that fails to meet the Clean Air Act standards for fuel can have serious consequences for human health and the environment,” she said.

The consent decree prohibits the defendants from producing gasoline in tanker trucks. If any defendant decides to produce gasoline by other methods, they must prepare a compliance plan and have it reviewed and approved by an independent engineer.

Gasoline that does not meet Clean Air Act standards for fuel can result in increased emissions from car tailpipes, which can harm public health, affect vehicle performance, and in some cases can damage engines and emission controls.

“Complying with the Clean Air Act’s fuel regulations is critical to ensuring that our nation’s important emissions standards are met,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

The Defendants stopped producing the illegal gasoline when EPA issued a Notice of Violation in February of 2009.

A Delaware corporation based in Houston, Texas, Rocky Mountain Pipeline System owns and operates petroleum product terminals in Dupont and Fountain, Colorado.

A Colorado corporation, Western Convenience Stores, Inc. owns and operates retail gasoline stations in Colorado and Nebraska.

Also a Colorado corporation, Offen Petroleum, Inc. owns and operates retail gasoline stations in Denver and distributes gasoline and diesel fuel to customers in Colorado and Wyoming.

The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

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