California Gas Stations Shut Under Expensive Mandate

Published April 1, 2009

Nearly 100 California gas stations are being forced out of business by a statewide mandate requiring them to implement expensive new equipment to reduce vapor emissions at the pump.

The mandate, issued by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), is known as Phase II of the state’s Enhanced Vapor Recovery program. It requires gas station owners to purchase and install devices to prevent vapors from escaping when customers fill their cars. The mandate takes effect April 1.

$11,000 per Pump

One of every 40 gas stations in the state has informed CARB it will be shutting down its gas pumps due to the high cost of the order.

George Fasching, who has been operating a gas station for 31 years, says the cost of meeting the CARB mandate is more than his business can handle.

“I came to the decision that I was too small a volume operator to continue on with the expenses imposed by the bureaucracy of the state,” Fasching told the Pasadena Star News for a January 27 story.

CARB estimates it will cost $11,000 per pump to comply with the order. A small, four-pump gas station would thus have to spend $44,000 to comply with the new requirements, while larger stations will see costs of more than $100,000.

Unsupported Health Claims

The main target of the order is volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. CARB asserts incremental reductions in VOC emissions are worth the expense of the mandatory new equipment at the pump. Many scientists and health experts disagree.

“It’s clear at this point that CARB is doing something just to be able to say they are doing something,” said Dr. John Dunn, an American Council on Science and Health advisor who practices and teaches emergency medicine at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. “There is no sound evidence these efforts to reduce small amounts of vapor leakage will have any positive impact on human health.”

The VOC reductions could contribute to an increase in another factor over which environmentalists have raised concerns. “Studies show ozone levels often rise as volatile organic compounds decline,” Dunn explained. “This has been shown as part of the ‘weekend effect’ in California, where ozone levels rise on the weekend, when fewer cars are on the road.”

Dunn added, “Before damaging the California economy still further with these excessive regulations, policymakers should demand solid evidence showing a negative correlation between minor vapor leakage and human health.”

Alyssia Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.