Gas stations forced to make costly upgrades

March 9, 2009 7:48:53 PM PDT
Soon all Bay Area gas stations will be required to have new nozzles on their pumps. Only a fraction of the gas stations have actually made the switch and the others face being shutdown if they do not do the same.

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The new pumps may look the same, but they have some little changes that will make a big difference in air quality.

Current nozzles suck up harmful gasoline vapors and send them into underground storage tanks, but the new nozzles do it better.

On April 1, 2009, 12,000 gas stations in areas of the state with smoggy air - like the Bay Area - must upgrade to the new pumps but only one-third of them have made the expensive changes.

Gas station owner Najmeddin Ravan is afraid the state will shut him down because he has not made the changes at his Emeryville Chevron station.

"They give you ultimatum, they gonna close station, so I don't know they're gonna do," Ravan said.

Ravan has owned his station since 1987. Costs vary but, Ravan says he needs about $60,000 to upgrade his pumps. He could not afford it before, and now his business is down 45 percent.

Ravan applied for a low-interest rate loan from the state, but got frustrated with the process and gave up.

"This is more than 500 page paper, I don't know what they wanted," Ravan said.

"The state has said they're going to hold fast to this April 1 deadline and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is charged with going out and enforcing this rule," BAAQMD spokesperson Mark Ross said. "Certainly we're going to take into consideration the exigencies that exist."

Ross says the air district recognizes that times are tough, but station owners have had plenty of time to prepare.

"This rule was put in place four or five years ago; of course nobody knew that we'd have the economic crisis we have now and the credit crunch we have now," Ross said.

Ross says the BAAQMD will not be shutting down stations on April 1, but the state maintains closure is an option if owners cannot show they are trying to comply.

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