Air Pollution:

EPA's Efforts to Control Gasoline Vapors From Motor Vehicles

RCED-90-21: Published: Oct 6, 1989. Publicly Released: Nov 15, 1989.


Richard L. Hembra
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to control motor vehicle emissions of gasoline vapors, focusing on whether EPA: (1) could lower gasoline volatility immediately; and (2) adequately addressed concerns regarding the safety of onboard emissions controls and the feasibility of vapor recovery equipment for service station pumps.

GAO found that: (1) in 1987, EPA proposed a two-stage reduction in gasoline volatility, with reductions to occur in 1989 and 1992; (2) EPA required lower volatility beginning in the summer of 1989, which should result in a 3-percent reduction in hydrocarbon emissions; (3) proposed legislation would require EPA to reduce the volatility standard to the planned level by 1992; (4) EPA still needs to determine whether it should further reduce the standard, whether refiners can meet the standard by 1992, and how it will treat ethanol fuels under the standard; (5) seven states adopted the more stringent standard beginning in 1989; (6) EPA believes that onboard controls will not degrade passenger safety, but federal transportation safety agencies disagree, contending that onboard systems would increase the complexity of fuel systems and the likelihood of vehicle fires and engine problems; and (7) while EPA believes that motor vehicle manufacturers could incorporate onboard controls within 2 years, the industry believes that it needs 4 years.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: In considering the proposed amendments to the Clean Air Act, Congress may wish to consider directing EPA to continue efforts to resolve the safety concerns associated with onboard controls.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 directed EPA to consult with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the safety of onboard controls, and to require their use by late 1995.

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