85-octane gas about to be legal -- for now
PIERRE -- Gasoline with an 85 octane rating can be legally sold in nine counties of western South Dakota. But only through next June 30, and only at pumps with special warning labels, under new regulations that narrowly received final approval Wednesday from the Legislature's rules review committee.
The panel voted 4-2 to allow the latest version of the Daugaard administration's rules to proceed.
What happens next would be up to the full Legislature come January.
For now, the decision averts a potential reduction or shutdown of 85- and lower octane gasoline altogether in South Dakota.
For decades, sub-87 octane fuels have been the main grades of gasoline flowing through the pipeline from Wyoming that supplies Rapid City and surrounding western markets.
The deciding vote to legalize that practice came Wednesday from Rep. R. Shawn Tornow, R-Sioux Falls.
Tornow said the new regulations are satisfactory "for the time being." He said the June 30 expiration dates require the matter to "most appropriately" be debated by the Legislature.
The June 30 sunsets were added the past few weeks as the result of conversations between members of the governor's staff and Tornow.
The issue had been deadlocked 3-3 in the committee for the past month after Tornow had initially sided with the panel's two Democrats, Rep. Peggy Gibson, of Huron, and Sen. Angie Buhl, of Sioux Falls, to block the new rules.
Gibson and Buhl repeated their positions Wednesday that 85-octane gasoline endangers motor vehicle engines.
In recent months, the 85-octane issue had gradually festered into a possible consumer and legal crisis.
The mess began last spring when state inspectors confirmed 85-octane gasoline was being sold in parts of eastern South Dakota, well outside its traditional West River zone.
Pricing differences had led some businesses to purchase sub-87 gasoline at Rapid City and truck it to eastern stations.
State Attorney General Marty Jackley subsequently delivered an official opinion that 85-octane didn't appear to be legal anywhere in South Dakota.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard responded with emergency rules allowing 85-octane statewide.
Daugaard, in turn, proposed permanent rules, but later changed those to be more restrictive, so that 85-octane could be sold only west of the 102nd meridian, covering approximately the western onefourth of South Dakota.
After those proposed rules stalled at the legislative review committee's Aug. 14 meeting, the governor's office and Department of Public Safety made further changes that first came to public light this week.
They added the June 30 expiration dates and simplified the geographic definition.
The rules now say that 85-octane is legal in Harding, Perkins, Butte, Meade, Pennington, Lawrence, Custer, Fall River and Shannon counties.
Voting for the rules throughout both sets of meetings were the panel's three other Republican members: Sen. Mike Vehle, of Mitchell; Sen. Jean Hunhoff, of Yankton; and Rep. Roger Hunt, of Brandon.
Attorney Jenna Howell, representing the Department of Public Safety, was the only person who testified Wednesday.