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Rule change aims to reduce chance of gas shortages

PIERRE -- A proposed change in an obscure rule could prove to be a big benefit to motorists who buy gasoline in South Dakota.

The state Department of Public Safety wants South Dakota to make its fuel-volatility standards consistent with those used in Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota during the period each year from Sept. 16 to Nov. 30.

The goal is to expand the supply of sources for gasoline to be piped into South Dakota during the fall of the year.

"This should minimize the possibility of supply outages at terminals and consequently result in more efficient deliveries to service stations and ultimately lower costs to the retailer and the public," state Office of Weights and Measures official David Pfahler said.

"Our inquiries have assured us that, if adopted, the change would not affect automobile drivability," he added.

Fuel volatility is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as the property of a liquid fuel that defines its evaporation characteristics. EPA regulates the vapor pressure of gasoline sold at retail stations during the summer ozone season, June 1 to September 15, to reduce evaporative emissions from gasoline that contribute to ground-level ozone and diminish the effects of ozone-related health problems.

A rules hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Public Safety Building, located at 118 W. Capitol Ave. in Pierre.

The proposal originated from the gasoline-supply industry and has support from the South Dakota Petroleum and Propane Marketers Association.

"It will enable pipelines in South Dakota to bring more fuel for the wintertime," association executive director Dawna Leitzke said. "We will have more supply. So it will be a win-win for everybody."

Asked if there was any downside to the change, Pfahler said he doesn't think so.

"Before we undertook the change, I spoke with counterparts out of state with more knowledge in this area. They identified no downside. If there is one, I don't know what it would be, but we have the opportunity to learn during the public hearing on July 19," he said.

Written comments will be accepted until July 29. If the new rules are adopted by the state department, they still need to clear the Legislature's rules review committee before they can go into effect later this year.