LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied a temporary waiver request from Kentucky that could've saved Louisvillians 25-50 cents per gallon.
Gas prices in Louisville are down about six cents from what they were a week ago, which is welcome news, but drivers shelling out close to $5 per gallon on average are still feeling the pain at the pump.
To help, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear asked the EPA for a temporary waiver to allow a 20-day pause on the reformulated gas requirement in Louisville.
"The answer we've gotten was a no, but a no for now," Beshear said.
Reformulated gasoline, RFG for short, is supposed to burn cleaner. According to the EPA, it's blended to reduce smog and toxic pollutants.
According to John Mura, communications director at the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, the EPA told the commonwealth over the phone they would not issue the RFG waiver at this time but would continue to monitor the situation.
Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows in the last 10 years, the price difference between the cost of reformulated gas in the midwest region of the country, of which Kentucky is a part, was typically 10-24 cents higher than conventional gas prices per gallon in the same region.
Since May, the average price difference between reformulated and convention gasoline jumped to 55 cents per gallon.
Based on that, a temporary waiver could see an average savings of $33 a month for a driver filling up a 15-gallon tank once a week.
"Through the course of the summer, this is two or three or four loads of groceries," Louisville Metro Councilman James Peden (R-23) said.
Peden said he feels the metro should be allowed to permanently opt-out of the program.
"I think cars burn clean enough now that it's not needed, but that becomes a political discussion that pits the left versus the right, and environmentalists versus economists, and so on," Peden said. "That's not a fight I'm wanting to do right now. Let's just take care of working-class individuals who are already paying extra for food, already paying extra for their daily lives. This is a simple one. Just get rid of the reformulated gas, and allows the suppliers to charge 50 cents since less or more."
Kentucky opted into the federal reformulated gas program in 1995.
At the time the Louisville area (all of Jefferson County and parts of Bullitt and Oldham Counties) and Kentucky counties in Cincinnatti's metropolitan region were included.
In 2018, the EPA allowed Kentucky's three northern counties near Cincinnatti to opt-out of the program.
Louisville has never permanently opted out of the program, but in 2008, then Gov. Steve Beshear did successfully pause Louisville's participation for about two weeks to offset a shortage caused by hurricanes.
As you can see on this map, Louisville is an island compared to the other areas around the country using RFG.
Much of the east and west coasts were required from day one to participate in the RFG program because they are in areas of high pollution, but some states opted into the program, including the entire state of Massachusetts and part of Kentucky.
"The Louisville area opted-in to the program to reduce ozone precursors, which isn't the same thing as voluntarily participating," Mura said.