FRANKFORT – Northern Kentuckians are fond of saying that the river that runs between them and Cincinnati is sometimes as wide as an ocean.
And the saying couldn’t be truer when it comes to gasoline prices.
The average gas price last month in Cincinnati was about 15 cents lower than just across the Ohio River in Covington, said Sean Alteri, head of Kentucky’s Division for Air Quality, during his testimony on Thursday before the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources & Energy. He said that gas stations in Cincinnati – despite being separated by a river only 400 yards wide – have gained an unfair economic advantage because they are no longer required to sell a type of low-emissions gas.
That’s why the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet sent a letter to the federal government on April 18 asking that the Northern Kentucky counties of Boone, Campbell and Kenton be exempt from selling more expensive reformulated gas, Alteri said.
Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, asked if switching back to conventional gas would cause Northern Kentucky to be in violation of federal ozone standards. Alteri said Northern Kentucky should still be able to meet those standards. In the 22 years following the adoption of reformulated gas, Alteri said refiners began producing cleaner conventional gas and vehicles started getting more fuel efficient.
“There have been significant improvements in conventional gasoline,” Alteri said. “There is just a marginal difference in between the emissions from reformulated gas and conventional gas. Conventional gas has gotten so much cleaner.”
Kelly also asked Alteri if it was likely that the federal government would allow Northern Kentucky to switch back to conventional gas. Alteri said he was “confident” the request would be approved, in part, because similar requests were approved under the prior administration of President Barack Obama for Columbus, Ohio; Charlotte, N.C.; and Memphis, Tenn.
Rep. Jeffery Donohue, D-Fairdale, asked Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Charles G. Snavely if he also planned to seek an exemption for Jefferson County, another region with reformulated gas.
“We are working with district officials to determine whether it would be an appropriate strategy for them,” Snavely said of the possible switch in Jefferson County.
Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said reformulated gas is certainly a topic of discussion among Northern Kentucky residents.
“Anything we can do to help you with this application, let us know,” Schickel said in reference his fellow members of the Northern Kentucky Caucus. “At least for the people I represent, they surely want to get rid of this reformulated gas.”
Alteri said he would update legislators when he gets a response to the petition from federal regulators.