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Why Louisville Metro Council wants to pause requiring reformulated gas

Councilman James Peden is urging Gov. Beshear to request a temporary pause on the reformulated gas requirement in Louisville to save folks money at the pump.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Gas prices in Louisville are still high. According to GasBuddy, the average price in the metro is floating around $4 per gallon amid ongoing tensions with Russia.

To help relieve some of that strain, Louisville Metro Council's Parks and Sustainability Committee passed a resolution Thursday that could eventually allow the city to opt out of using reformulated gas (RFG), at least temporarily.

RFG is a gas blend that burns cleaner than regular gasoline, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It's better for the environment, but it's more expensive to produce.

Cities with high smog levels are federally required to use RFG, and Louisville has been under this federal mandate since 1995.

The resolution, sponsored by Councilman James Peden, urges Governor Andy Beshear to ask the EPA for an emergency fuel waiver to pause the RFG requirement in Louisville for the rest of the year to save people money at the pump.

"It's not meant to be permanent, it's not to ask us to excuse whatever consent decree we have. I'm trying to avoid the politics of the environment at this point. This is just simply some pocketbook relief, for everyone on a temporary basis," Peden said.

According to the resolution, using RFG collectively costs Louisville drivers an average of $200,915 daily - and $73 million each year. With supply chain issues and already spiking gas prices, Peden is urging action to relieve some of the strain.

"On any low, middle-income individual, it's a lot of money," Peden said. "So, we've got a 30-day window to ask the Feds for a temporary waiver. So long as we have the current rules on Russian imports, just ask for a pass on the reformulated gas until prices come back down."

Compared to surrounding counties, the resolution says Louisville's gas is $0.25 more expensive per gallon because of how limited RFG is.

RELATED: Why are gas prices still so high? Here's what one expert says

Kentucky opted into the RFG program in the 1990s in order to reduce pollutants in the air under the leadership of former Gov. Brereton Jones. Since then, the introduction of electric vehicles and other automotive advancements have lessened the need for alternate gas. 

According to the resolution, the metro saw a 17% reduction in volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions when RFG was first introduced. Over the last 29 years, things have changed - and the costs may now outweigh the benefits.

"The present benefit is approximately two percent," the resolution says.

In 2019, former Gov. Matt Bevin tried to step back from using RFG since modern-day gas burns cleaner than it used to. However, local experts at the time said more studies needed to be done to know for sure if Louisville's emissions met the standard. So, the requirement stayed.

University of Kentucky economics professor Mike Clark is raising the question: Even if the waiver is granted, how long would it take for metro gas stations to make the switch efficiently? As of right now, that question remains unanswered.

The resolution has been moved to the Metro Council consent calendar for further consideration.

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