Hurricane prompts suspension of fuel, hours regs

The federal government announced a temporary and limited lifting of fuel specifications nationwide because of supply disruptions created by Hurricane Katrina, as well as an hours-of-service exemption for fuel haulers.

Stephen Johnson, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, announced Aug. 31 that he was exercising his authority under the Clean Air Act to temporarily waive volatility and sulfur standards because of the natural disaster.

“These waivers are necessary to ensure that fuel is available throughout the country to address public health issues and emergency vehicle supply needs,” Johnson said.

Effective through Sept. 15, EPA is allowing the use of diesel fuel that exceeds 500 parts per million sulfur content. The agency is also waiving the requirement to sell “summer gasoline,” which has a lower volatility limit.

The Bush administration has announced plans to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help offset the fuel shortage. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said crude oil from the reserve would become available as early as Sept. 1.

Because truck transportation in the Gulf Coast area is difficult, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a declaration of emergency for drivers transporting gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel in response to the impact of Katrina. This means they are exempt from normal hours of service limits. The exemption ends at 1 p.m. Sept. 14.

— Jill Dunn