Description of Initiative:
Tony Pendola, PE, currently serves as North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (NCDENR’s) Small Business Ombudsman and directs the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program. When a new federal rule came out affecting all gas stations, Pendola assisted EPA in filming an outreach video alongside an engineer from the state’s gasoline trade association. These engineers explained why summertime gasoline is more expensive because of the extra refining required to lower the volatility. While the chemistry involved is as complex as refining, they explained that, in general, three ingredients are required to produce ground-level ozone. They are sunlight, nitrous oxides (NOx) which are chiefly produced from power plants and automobiles, and volatile organic compounds. Blessed with a plethora of pine trees, North Carolina has an abundance of naturally occurring VOCs. Therefore, lowering the volatility of gasoline in the June through September ozone season should not significantly impact ozone emissions.
North Carolina’s Division of Air Quality then did the “heavy lifting” and presented a strong case verifying the science supporting a regulatory repeal, and U.S. EPA agreed, making North Carolina the first state in the country to request and receive a reprieve from the costly summertime gasoline requirements.
Results to Date:
This effort represents a rate difference at the rack of approximately seven cents per gallon. Estimates are that citizens and visitors to the triangle and triad metropolitan areas saved between $18 million and $35 million for the partial season last year alone, with much greater savings to follow.
While Pendola recognizes that he is simply a cog on a big wheel, he was the force that got that wheel moving on the summertime gas repeal. “I see at it as a win all the way around. It doesn’t harm the environment, it requires less refining, and it saves a significant amount of money for everyone affected, but most especially the vulnerable populations for which fuel costs are a sizable portion of their budget,” said Pendola. Since helping to form NCDENR’s original Customer Service Center, Pendola has believed that government works best when it talks to and listens to both citizens and industry.
Pendola was awarded a prestigious Governor’s Award of Excellence along with two members of the DAQ team (of almost two dozen individuals), Sushma Mazemore, PE and Director Sheila Holman. The states of Florida, Alabama, and Pennsylvania have so far followed suit. Pendola estimates that there are literally billions of dollars of savings to be gained in other NOx-limited metro areas around the country. With the knowledge of North Carolina’s approach shared, other states may exercise this rare and excellent opportunity to have a substantial impact on the economy while protecting the environment.
Tony Pendola, PE
Small Business Ombudsman
North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources