Some Republican lawmakers want the federal government to lift the mandate for selling reformulated gas in southeastern Wisconsin under a bill making its way through the state Legislature. Sales of the cleaner-burning fuel were required for six counties in 1996 as part of the federal Clean Air Act.
At the time, the corridor between Milwaukee and Chicago was considered a high ozone area, and state lawmakers felt it was necessary for drivers here to use reformulated gas. Supporters of scrapping “RFG” think the requirement is obsolete, but Democrats disagree.
The six counties required to sell reformulated gas are: Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington. Under the bill, the state would request that the federal Environmental Protection Agency lift the mandate for those counties. Republican state Rep. Jesse Kremer is the author of the measure. He believes reformulated gas is no longer needed in southeastern Wisconsin.
“The fuel is so clean now and the vehicles are burning so much more cleanly than they were 20, 25, 30 or 40 years ago that we think we should go back and review this, so we’re asking the federal government to review eliminating the blend mandate in southeast Wisconsin,” Kremer says.
Kremer says he’s also pushing the bill for economic reasons. His district straddles two counties – Washington and Fond du Lac. He says with Washington being in the reformulated gas zone, many people cross the northern border to get less expensive, regular gas.
“I have gas station owners on the county line and they’ve lost a lot of their business over the years because people jump counties where it’s 15 to 20 cents a gallon cheaper. So, this harms small business owners, it harms people on fixed incomes that live within these areas,” Kremer says.
Kremer thinks the Trump Administration would seriously consider the request. But, one person who wants the requirement to remain in place is Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Brostoff of Milwaukee. He plans to vote against the bill.
“Reformulated gas is incredibly important. It helps us reduce ozone pollution and this is absolutely a step in the wrong direction,” Brostoff says.
Brostoff says he doesn’t buy the GOP’s argument that regular, non-reformulated gas is cleaner now, than it was years ago.
“They’re basically trying to prevent the government from being able to protect its citizens against bad actors who would put their profits over what’s best for the community,” Brostoff says.
Brostoff thinks it would be irresponsible for the federal EPA to lift the reformulated gas requirement for the six counties in southeastern Wisconsin. A legislative committee held a public hearing on the bill in November and plans a vote for later this month.
According to the EPA’s website, reformulated gas still is required in heavy industrial areas of 13 different states, including Wisconsin, Illinois, New York and California.