EPA said it is considering applications from three small refiners for exemptions from stricter standards for low sulfur gasoline production that take effect in 2004.
The regulations, announced in 1999, were designed to make cleaner-burning gasoline that will reduce auto sulfur emissions harmful to people with respiratory ailments.
U.S. refiners are required to cut average sulfur levels from gasoline from more than 300 to 30 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur beginning in 2004.
United Refining Co. in Pennsylvania, Wyoming Refining in Wyoming and National Cooperative Refinery Association in Kansas said they were unable to immediately comply with stricter rules because of the cost, according to an EPA notice in the Federal Register.
Wyoming Refining, which processes nearly 10,000 barrels per day (bpd), said it sought an exemption allowing it to make gasoline with an average of 150 ppm of sulfur from 2004 through 2007.
National Cooperative, rated at 77,000 bpd, said it needed a delay but would be able to meet the new standard by June 2006.
United Refining, rated at 77,000 bpd, did not specifically say when it would be able to meet the new standard, according to the Federal Register.
EPA allows small refiners to apply for delays in meeting the stricter standards based on the expense and hardship.
"Although the review and determination associated with these applications does not involve rulemaking, we believe it is important to provide public notice of these applications and to provide opportunity for public comment," said EPA.
Industry, environmental groups and others have until March 21 to submit comments on the three refiners'' requests for exemptions.
by Virginia Sutcliffe