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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Prices at the pump are going up in western Pennsylvania.
The average cost of gas is eleven-cents more expensive this week at about $2.91/gallon.
A boost in prices usually occurs when refineries and gas stations switch from a winter blend to a summer blend of gas.
This year, most counties in this state have received approval to stick with the cheaper winter gas, but there could still be a problem in Allegheny County.
Gasoline prices are already spiking, thanks to Saudi Arabia’s deliberate cutback in oil production.
But prices could jump even more for residents of Allegheny County this summer.
“So what’s happening right now is that the counties around Allegheny County are going to get the less expensive gasoline come May 1st than what Allegheny County’s getting,” said Don Bowers of the PA Petroleum Association on Tuesday.
That’s because the state, on behalf of those counties, applied and received EPA approval to sell cheaper winter gas during the summer.
“We could see gasoline prices in Allegheny County go anywhere from 30 to 50 cents higher than the surrounding counties,” predicted Bowers.
Bowers says his association warned Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald last August, but Allegheny County has its own health department with its own rules and regulations.
“This is probably the fastest that we’ve passed a rule,” Health Department Deputy Director Jim Kelly told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.
Kelly insists the Health Department acted quickly.
“Our Board of Health adopted it in November, the first week of November of 2018, and then County Council took it up in February,” he added.
But that three month delay means EPA approval won’t be taken up until May after expensive summer gas is in the pipeline.
Kelly wouldn’t tell local Allegheny County service stations what to do, but ignoring the rule to substitute higher priced summer gas for cheaper winter gas is an option.
“It’s their decision to decide what to do, but all I can say is, the state is not going to enforce the rule, the county is not going to enforce the rule, and EPA can’t do anything about enforcing the rule until you go through a due process of law that’s probably going to take you until the end of the summer,” Kelly said.
Officials from the Petroleum Association say it still may be possible for Allegheny County to get a waiver from the EPA to sell winter gas sometime this summer.
But for that to happen it may depend on the clout of local officials with the Trump administration who can really make that waiver come true quickly.