Mills Eases Air Quality Rules for Kerosene, Hedges on Heating Oil

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Heating oil is delivered to a house / residential

Maine Gov. Janet Mills, in response to increasing home heating prices and dropping temperatures, has eased air pollution rules concerning the importation of non-low sulfur kerosene.

However, Mills is hedging her bets on whether she’ll also bend the rules for the import of non-low sulfur No. 2 heating oil.

According to an Oct. 31 guidance memo issued to Maine kerosene importers and distributors, the Maine Dept. of Environmental Protection has re-interpreted laws regulating air pollution to allow for kerosene with a higher sulfur content than previously allowed to be imported into the state.

Jeffrey S. Crawford, director of the Bureau of Air Quality, discovered the loop hole in the regulations eight days before Election Day. Here’s the memo:

The policy guidance doesn’t say how large of an impact the move will have on anthropogenic global warming, air quality, or child asthma, the commonly cited reasons for limiting the fuel’s sulfur content.

In colder months, kerosene is a popular home heating fuel for people with outdoor tanks because it doesn’t gel when temperatures go sub-zero. But many Mainers also heat their homes with No. 2 heating oil, which is chemically identical to diesel and is regulated under the same 2018 law regarding sulfur content.

[RELATED: As Heating Oil Costs Keep Rising, Oil Dealers Seek Waiver from Mills…]

Advocates for oil distributors have called on Mills to issue a simple waiver that would allow for the import of non-low sulfur No. 2 heating oil from Canada, a move which could shore up supply in northern Maine and ease prices.

But Mills told the Portland newspaper Monday that she had submitted a request to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the waiver. It’s unclear why Mills sought federal approval for the fuel oil waiver but discovered a previously unknown loophole in the law for kerosene.

A decision on the waiver, which would be hugely unpopular among Mills’ environmentalist supporters, will now be delayed until after Tuesday’s election, at which point the political calculations behind Mills’ energy policy will change should she be re-elected.

The average price per gallon of home heating oil is currently $5.57, while the average statewide price for a gallon of kerosene is $6.66.

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