EPA Allows Change At Gas Pumps

They're called vapor recovery systems, and they've been required at gas stations in urban areas of Texas since 1992.

They come in different shapes, but most of you would recognize one brand. It's that thick piece of black rubber tubing that makes it hard to fit the gas nozzle into the tank.

Shawn Monroe was pumping gas at a Valero off the Gulf Freeway.

She says she had no idea what it was for, until now.

“I'm ashamed to say I had no clue.”

But Nancy Gallaway came close.

“Trap air I guess? It's like an air lock for the gas?”

The rubber hose captures toxic chemicals like benzene and prevents them from going into the atmosphere and forming ozone. The technology costs about $5,000 per nozzle.

Alan Clark is director of transportation and air quality planning at the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

He says the EPA's reasoning is simple:

“They've simply created better technology to deal with the problem. And that technology is now in your vehicle as opposed to having to be in the gas pump.”

Almost all vehicles built after 2006 have equipment inside the gas tank that captures the fumes.  

Clark says it's a more efficient technology.

“I think the best thing is the gas pump handles themselves will be lighter and probably easier for people to pick up and to use.”

But the EPA is leaving the final decision up to the states.

Guy Hoffman is with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. He says his agency will review the proposal, but hasn't decided yet whether taking off the equipment is a good idea.

“If you just start turning these things off, then you may increase the emissions inside the area. So you may cause more pollution if you don't do it properly.”

The EPA estimates that about 70 percent of cars and trucks now have the onboard technology.

But Nancy Gallaway says that leaves 30 percent of the vehicles without it, and that's why Texas should keep the special nozzles.

“They should keep them because a lot of people they can't afford to buy new cars, and if that contributes to it, then they should keep it.”

Harris County and all seven surrounding counties still have ozone levels that exceed federal limits.

From the KUHF Health and Science Desk, I'm Carrie Feibel.

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