Regulators deny suspension of costlier fuel requirement

FILE - Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during the opening day of the Kentucky State Legislature special session in Frankfort, Ky., Sept. 7, 2021. Beshear has run into a roadblock in trying to deliver relief for Louisville-area motorists forced to pay more at the pump for reformulated gas, the governor said Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has run into a roadblock in trying to deliver relief for Louisville-area motorists forced to pay more at the pump for reformulated gas.

Federal regulators denied his request for a waiver to temporarily remove the requirement that costlier but cleaner-burning reformulated fuel be sold in Metro Louisville, the Democratic governor said Tuesday.

Reformulated fuel costs 20-30 cents more per gallon than other kinds of gas, according to Beshear. During a time of skyrocketing gas prices, that has added to the financial strain for motorists in Kentucky's largest city and some of its suburbs.

Beshear asked federal regulators to allow conventional, less costly gas to be sold in Jefferson County — which includes Louisville — and parts of neighboring Oldham and Bullitt counties.

The governor can’t unilaterally suspend the reformulated gas requirement, but instead had to petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for such a suspension.

“The answer we’ve gotten is a ‘no,’ but a ‘no’ for now,” Beshear told reporters Tuesday.

The EPA in the 1990s started requiring cities with high smog levels to sell reformulated gasoline — known as RFG — which is blended to burn cleaner than regular gasoline and reduce smog-forming pollutants.

“I get why it is in place, but our families are suffering in paying for gas,” Beshear said.

The EPA has “verbally denied the request” but will continue monitoring the situation, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said in a statement Tuesday.

EPA officials did not immediately provide comments when reached by email Tuesday.

Several Republican lawmakers from the Louisville area also called for the suspension of the reformulated fuel requirement. GOP state Rep. Kevin Bratcher has referred to the requirement as a “tax that people in my district and most districts around here are tired of paying.”

Meanwhile, Beshear said Tuesday he’s among governors urging President Joe Biden to suspend the federal gas tax. Biden has said he will decide by the end of the week whether he would support a federal gasoline tax holiday, possibly saving U.S. consumers as much as 18.4 cents a gallon.

“That would make, we believe, a significant, immediate impact on the price of gas," Beshear said.

The governor, who has touted the state's economic development gains during his term, has taken other steps to try to help Kentuckians battered by rising prices for consumer goods. He doesn't face reelection until next year, but the campaign has already gotten underway, and politicians from both parties have moved forcefully to respond to voters' anger about what they're being forced to pay at the pump.

Beshear recently took action to freeze Kentucky's gas tax, an emergency step to prevent a 2-cent-per-gallon increase that would have taken effect July 1. The action is expected to save Kentuckians an estimated $35.4 million. In February, the governor took executive action to grant relief to Kentucky taxpayers hit with pandemic-related increases in their vehicle property tax bills.

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