PORTLAND, Maine — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing for seven southern Maine counties to transition to lower-emitting reformulated gasoline, a proposal supported by the fuel industry-led Maine Energy Marketers Association.
The EPA issued the proposed rule earlier this week, which would prohibit the sale of conventional gasoline in York, Cumberland, Androscoggin, Kennebec, Knox and Lincoln counties by May 2015.
That date is in line with a 2013 law enacted to move the state to reformulated gas and another law passed during the last legislative session to delay the restriction to May 2015, from an original deadline of May 2014.
Marc Cone, director of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Air Quality Bureau, said Thursday that the new requirement would reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds in the southern portion of the state and help it stay below limits on summertime ozone emissions.
“We expect that it will help lower ozone levels,” Cone said. “And we’re very happy for that.”
The state previously used reformulated gas, beginning in 1994, but stepped away from the fuel in 2004 amid concerns about the fuel additive MTBE, a colorless, odorless and tasteless carcinogen that can slip undetected into groundwater.
Reformulated gasoline now uses the additive ethanol, produced primarily from corn but which also can be synthesized from other plant material.
Jessamine Logan, spokeswoman for the DEP, said that the request from the office of Gov. Paul LePage to the EPA to opt in to the reformulated gas program started with the Maine Energy Marketers Association. Cone said the group sought for the region to switch largely because most of the Eastern Seaboard has joined that program under the federal Clean Air Act, making the lower-emitting gasoline more readily available.
“That’s what they tell us,” Cone said, referring to the energy marketers’ group.
A spokesman from Maine Energy Marketers Association was not available late Thursday afternoon.
Cone said that most of the reformulation process required happens at the refinery level. There are no oil refineries producing gasoline in Maine.
The proposed rule from the EPA would take effect next year, prohibiting refiners, importers and distributors from selling conventional gas by May 1, 2015, and prohibiting retailers and wholesalers from selling conventional gas by June 1, 2015.
Maine would become one of 17 states to shift entirely to reformulated gas. That group includes Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and southern New Hampshire.
The EPA is requesting comments on the proposal, regarding whether there will be sufficient capacity of the reformulated fuel in the region to supply the seven Maine counties by the deadlines in 2015.
The agency said comments on the proposal can be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, in reference to docket identification number EPA-HQ-OAR-2014-0283. The comments will be accepted for up to 30 days after the rule is published in the federal register, unless a public hearing is requested in the 15 days after that rule is published.