Mr. Robert Haynes, Hearing Officer
Green Delaware’s Comments IN RE Draft Amendments to Regulation 1124 Section 36.0 “Stage II Vapor Recovery”
Dear Mr. Haynes:
Green Delaware recently began a review of the record in this matter. (We had not been invited to participate in the “review committee” and were not contacted by other “environmental” participants.) We appreciate the extension of the public comment period as we requested and hope you find our comments useful.
A considerable amount of technical documentation has been generated by the Department and in general we feel the work is competently done and does not need repetition here. This is in addition to an extensive existing literature of EPA reports, industry publications, etc.
Handling gasoline exposes people to various toxins such as benzene–a known cause of cancer in humans. Therefore, minimizing these exposures, and resulting health impacts, should be considered a priority in addition to the concern of VOC contributions to ozone formation. The gas station people, at least in their public hearing testimony, did not address health impacts to their employees and customers.
The Division of Air Quality is proposing to do more to control gasoline vapor emissions than the minimum federal (USEPA) requirement, but less than the State of California, the leader in this area, is doing. Green Delaware feels that the DNREC proposal is sound and well-justified as far as it goes. But it does no go far enough.
The DNREC is proposing to allow the shutdown of Stage II vapor control at Delaware’s approximately 330 gas stations. This means that Delaware would rely on the On-board Refueling Vapor Recovery (ORVR) systems that most–but by no means all–cars and light trucks are now equipped with. This also means that off road equipment, motorcycles, boats, “gas cans” for lawn care equipment, generators, etc, would lose the vapor control now provided by gas station nozzles.
There exists an “incompatibility” between some forms of “Stage II” gas station vapor recovery equipment and the “on board” (ORVR) systems that can potentially cause increased emissions from the gas station systems. This incompatibility can be cured by modifications to the Stage II systems.
California long ago decided to keep Stage II systems in service and cure the “incompatibilities.” This approach provides the best control of gasoline vapors, and thus the maximum protection of air quality and public health. The equipment to do this is commercially available and demonstrated.
DNREC has shown that the present Stage II systems need more frequent inspection and maintenance. (“… a survey conducted during the development of the proposed regulatory revision indicated a majority of gas stations needed maintenance in order to pass the annual tank tightness test.”) Apparently, 70 percent of gas station systems initially fail to pass their annual leak tests. These leaking systems likely cause some occupational exposures, and customer exposures, as well as increased gasoline vapor emissions. So, the DNREC proposal for a continuous pressure monitor (CPM) requirement makes sense whether Stage II is retained or only a pressure monitoring system is required.
The comments and testimony of the gas station interests provided no real response to these concerns. Their objections seem to have little if any factual basis.
The EPA and other sources claim a very high degree of reliability and effectiveness for the on-board (ORVR) systems. Based on personal observation, we have some doubts as to the effectiveness of the nozzle/filler neck seal on many ORVR systems. (Without positive pressure in the tank, from an effective seal, the displaced vapor will not enter the on-board canister.) In our experience, visible vapor and gasoline odors are common at stations without Stage II controls. Further, it seems surprising that on board systems would have a very high degree of reliability when gas station systems have a 70 percent annual (de facto) failure rate. This causes us to suspect that the “break even point,” the point at which vacuum-assist Stage II systems are argued to increase, not decrease overall emissions, is probably farther in the future than the 2018-2019 time frame identified by the Division of Air Quality, if it exists at all. This further suggests that shutdown of Stage II systems in Delaware would be premature. Certainly shutdown of existing systems should not occur before the break even point.
The gas station people argue that the pressure in their tanks is likely to remain negative due to the dispensing of liquid from the pumps and the non-return of vapor. This may be, or might be if liquid withdrawal was constant, but if the systems are not vapor tight one may expect ingress of air and resulting vapor expansion. And their systems apparently do not reliably remain vapor tight. So, again, the continuous pressure monitoring is needed.
Therefore, sound public policy is to retain and modify Stage II vapor recovery, as necessary, to make it compatible with ORVR. An inferior alternative, the one now proposed by the Department, would allow the shutdown of Stage II vapor recovery but enact a continuous pressure monitoring requirement. The least desirable alternative would be the one apparently desired by the industry: Simple shutdown of State II.
Delaware usually tries to do a little better in air quality management than the minimum of federal requirements and the desirability of doing so in this case seems well-established. We urge the DNREC to “do the right thing.”
Alan Muller, Executive Director
Port Penn, DE 19731 USA