U.S. EPA to announce decision on seasonal fuel waivers as soon as Friday

(Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would decide as soon as Friday whether to allow sales of winter-grade gasoline into the spring and summer to help the fuel industry deal with a massive supply glut, after a source said several states already unilaterally waived the anti-smog requirements.

The decision would come as Washington seeks to limit the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak that has infected nearly a half a million people around the globe, decimated travel, and forced massive disruptions in daily life.

Oil industry groups had requested the so-called Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waivers to continue selling winter blends past a May 1 cutoff as unused supplies since the pandemic broke out sits idle in tanks, terminals and pipelines.

The EPA sets the pressure requirements to reduce emissions that contribute to smog. As temperatures rise during the summer, standards shift to lower pressure gasoline.

Asked about the requests, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday that the decision would come as “soon as tomorrow”.

An industry source familiar with the matter said that as many as 16 states had already issued waivers allowing sales of winter gasoline past May 1. The source, who asked not to be named discussing the matter, did not provide further details.

While the EPA sets the pressure requirements federally to reduce emissions, many states also have the power to individually regulate seasonal fuel standards.

Tomorrow’s EPA announcement is expected to address which states will receive waivers and for how long.

Reporting by Laura Sanicola; editing by Diane Craft