Governor says there is a Plan B
FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – The federal Environmental Protection Agency has denied a request by Gov. Andy Beshear to waive the requirement for reformulated gas in the Louisville area to ease the price at the pump, but the governor says there may still be some relief in the works.
On June 9, Beshear announced he had sent a letter to the EPA requesting the waiver, “allowing conventional, more affordable gasoline to be sold in Jefferson County, as well as portions of Bullitt and Oldham counties.”
He noted at the time that while RFG is needed to reduce pollutants in the Louisville area, the waiver would result in savings of around 25 cents per gallon for residents in the area for a 20-day period.
But while speaking with reporters in Louisville on Tuesday, he said, “The EPA has told us, just verbally thus far, no. But they are going to keep watching and monitoring the situation.”
The EPA in the 1990s started requiring cities with high smog levels to sell reformulated gasoline — known as RFG — which is blended to burn cleaner than regular gasoline and reduce smog-forming pollutants.
“I get why it is in place, but our families are suffering in paying for gas,” Beshear said.
The EPA has “verbally denied the request” but will continue monitoring the situation, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said in a statement Tuesday.
But there is a Plan B, Beshear said, “I and other governors have pushed the President for suspending the federal gas tax in its entirety for a period of time. We continue to hope that’s a possibility. That would make, we believe, a significant, immediate impact on the price of gas, and the administration is at least listening to us.”
The governor said he has done what he can within the state to ease some of the burden of inflation, like freezing the property tax rate on cars at 2021 levels (which was later passed into law by the General Assembly), and also signed an executive order to prevent a two cent per gallon hike in the state gas tax from taking effect, July 1. However, he said he could not stop collecting the state gas tax.
“Certainly, it would take an act of the state legislature to completely remove it for the interim,” he said. “That would cause significant disruption in repairs of our roads, bridge projects, expansion of the Mountain Parkway. It would also present a hit to the economy with the number of people who work on all of those projects.”
He added, it’s easier for the federal government to suspend their fuel tax, which is 18.3 cents per gallon for gas and 24.3 cents per gallon for diesel, “because we have a requirement in the state for a balanced budget every year, which means a change in the middle of the year would take a major act of the legislature, along with cuts in other places to balance the budget. The federal government doesn’t have those issues and can do it with very little impact.”
President Biden has said that would decide by the end of the week if he will support a federal gas tax holiday.
The average price of gas statewide in Kentucky is currently $4.73 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com, down about 10 cents from its peak earlier this month. The nationwide average is $4.96, and had been as high as $5.03.