Proposed state law would let counties test for bad gas

Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds displays a sample of gas with a large amount of sediment collected from a station in the county. Reynolds, pictured during an online news conference Friday, is in support of proposed state legislation to allow county auditors to test the quality of fuel sold at stations. BUTLER COUNTY AUDITOR'S OFFICE
Caption
Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds displays a sample of gas with a large amount of sediment collected from a station in the county. Reynolds, pictured during an online news conference Friday, is in support of proposed state legislation to allow county auditors to test the quality of fuel sold at stations. BUTLER COUNTY AUDITOR'S OFFICE

Credit: BUTLER COUNTY AUDITOR'S OFFICE

Credit: BUTLER COUNTY AUDITOR'S OFFICE

Ohio one of three states without fuel testing program.

Ohio is one of only three states that doesn’t test to ensure the quality of gas and diesel coming out of filling station pumps. Some state legislators and county auditors want that to change.

A bipartisan group of state legislators plans to introduce a bill this week that will allow county auditors to test for bad gas at the same time they inspect pumps for accuracy.

“Consumers deserve to know that they’re getting what they pay for at the pump,” said Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith.

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State Rep. Brigid Kelly, D-Cincinnati, and now-Sen. George Lang, R-West Chester, who together sponsored a House version of the legislation that stalled last session, were among those Friday touting a new bill.

“This is a perfect example of something that is not a Democrat or Republican issue, not an urban or rural issue, but an issue of consumer protection and making sure that people get what they pay for,” Kelly said.

During an online news conference, Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds held up a fuel sample tainted with sediment taken from an area gas station.

“This isn’t the only bad gas that was taken from this fuel station over the years,” he said. “It’s a reoccurring problem.”

Reynolds said the result of bad gas in fuel tanks and engines results in thousands of dollars in needed repairs.

Keith said the issue isn’t new. He and other county auditors have been pushing fuel testing for decades, going back to 1999 when a survey of Ohio stations showed 21% of gas samples failed to meet minimum standards, Keith said.

County weights and measures inspectors can be easily trained to do the testing and it would add only minutes to routine inspections, Keith said.

The cost for testing equipment could run more than $12,000, including an octane analyzer which could cost up to $15,000, Reynolds said.

The group noted Alaska, Nebraska and Ohio are the only three states currently without a fuel quality assurance program. Problems typically arise when the posted octane level is not met or sediment or water is introduced into gas, officials said.

While the legislators and auditors did not provide hard statistics on how much damage bad gas causes, anecdotally they cited incidents where tainted gas ruined numerous vehicles costing drivers thousands of dollars in repairs.

About a year ago diesel fuel tainted unleaded tanks at four Montgomery County stations and caused damage to vehicles, Keith said.

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Even if this bill passes, testing will not be mandated statewide. It will be up to each county to decide whether to stand up a program, said Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp.

“Local government is the best government and that is still true with this bill,” Hall said.

State Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, said he would like testing required statewide “but we have to start somewhere.”

Summit County, home to Akron, has a home-rule form of government and has checked gas quality since 2005.

Though fuel might be tested only once a year and there could be multiple fuel deliveries to stations each week, the unannounced visits will still provide a deterrent to bad actors, Keith and Reynolds said.

“It allows some level of confidence, some level of security for the consumer that someone is checking,” Keith said. “If there’s an issue that comes up, we can go in and check.”

The law, if passed, would allow the fuel inspector to immediately stop the sale of fuel, Reynolds said.

“Two or three minutes is all it takes, get an in-the-field reading, and have the ability right then and there to stop the sale of gasoline. That is a big incentive for people to start playing by the rules,” Reynolds said.

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A version of the bill introduced last session subjected civil penalties on a retail dealer that failed to correct violations.

Representatives from the Butler County Farm Bureau and the Butler County Township Association also spoke in favor of the bill — mainly for its protection of farm equipment and for those who live in rural areas more reliant on vehicles.

Phone calls to Speedway and the Ohio Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association for comment were not immediately returned Friday.

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