All 50 states were being allowed Thursday to waive certain federal air pollution rules on gasoline and diesel due to Hurricane Katrina.
The Bush administration on Wednesday extended an initial waiver for the four states most affected by Katrina.
The temporary easing of regulations will end Sept. 15, said Stephen Johnson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
“I am exercising my authority under the Clean Air Act to temporarily waive specific standards for gasoline and diesel fuels to ensure that the Hurricane Katrina natural disaster does not result in serious fuel supply interruptions around the country,” Johnson said in a statement.
“This action will result in an immediate increase in fuel supply. These waivers are necessary to ensure that fuel is available throughout the country,” Johnson added.
The waivers will allow gasoline with higher evaporation rates and diesel fuel with a higher sulfur content to be sold.
Katrina’s powerful winds and flooding shut nine Gulf Coast refineries with combined capacity of nearly 2 million barrels per day. Four others were running at reduced rates and two major Gulf Coast pipelines that ship gasoline to northern markets were closed.
The EPA late Tuesday said it would temporarily permit refineries in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee to supply gasoline meeting a Reid Vapor Pressure standard of 9.0 and diesel with sulfur content higher than 500 parts per million.
The policy change will allow more imports of high-sulfur diesel into the U.S. market.
Refiners will also be able immediately to sell gasoline intended for use in the autumn and winter, when pollution caused by hotter weather is normally not a problem.
Retail gasoline prices have shot up across the country due to the fuel supply disruptions caused by Katrina.