COLUMBUS (WCMH)–House Bill 499 proposes giving counties the authority to test the quality of fuel.
The bill was submitted at the beginning of February and has been assigned to the transportation commitee. It has yet to receive a reading.
This comes shortly after Ohio’s Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith addressed the concerns in January when four gas stations in his county were found to have what he calls tainted fuel.
“Diesel fuel in someone’s gas tank can do some major damage to someone’s vehicle very quickly,” said Keith. “So this is an issue that county auditors around the state have been interested in for some time.”
Keith called for the state to begin a fuel quality testing program, like every one of Ohio’s neighbors: Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and even the state up north; Michigan.
He added that Ohio is one of four states in the nation that does not have a fuel quality testing program. The Montgomery County Auditor’s Office has been advocating for the implementation of such a program for the past 20 years.
“We haven’t seen a whole lot of progress made but hopefully things like this will serve as an impetus to try to get something done,” he said.
Keith joins other county auditors like Dusty Rhodes of Hamilton County, and Roger Reynolds from Butler County, want a state testing program.
Franklin County Auditor weighs-in
“Our office is supportive and it’s not something just from a couple weeks ago,” said Stinziano. “Having a statewide standard and letting local county governments weights and measures being able to pursue that, I think is good practice.”
The Summit County Fiscal Office started a fuel quality testing program without the state in 2005. It is able to provide the service because the county has a charter. Basically, it is a “unigov” and its laws will not effect other jurisdictions.
Stinziano said testing is about protecting the consumer, not penalizing the seller.
“We want to make sure that bad actors aren’t able to pursue taking advantage of consumers: putting water in the gas or not providing the quality of level of fuel that they are hopefully providing that the consumer wants to pay for,” said Stinziano. “Seeing the success of the other states there’s never been a down side.”
Neighboring states test fuel quality
Michigan has an entire webpage full of information to help gas stations prevent poor quality fuel.
“Poor quality motor fuel is one of the significant causes for consumer complaints,” says the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development on the page. “Investigations have shown that several factors that contribute to poor quality motor fuel were within the control of the station operator had they known what to look for.”
Pennsylvania law § 4187.3. provides that automotive fuel testing is random and unannounced. According to the Agriculture Department’s annual report, it randomly tested 244 ruel samples at retailers. Two failed. Of the 60 tests resulting from conusmer complaints it received, 12 tests failed. The previous three years of random testing reporting are similar.
West Virginia offers random and consumer complaint testing. The department has listed a number of frequenlty asked questions with contact information.
Down in the Bluegrass, Kentucky Department of Agriculture randomly tests about 400 gas stations annually. In 2019, 23 stations failed. That of course is out of 2,800 gas stations throughout the 120 counties.
Indiana has a program that is consumer complaint based. There is no random testing there.
Should House Bill 499 pass, the cost to the tax payer would be minimal to get the program up and running, according to Stinziano.
“We actually already own the equipment here in Franklin County,” he said. “We used to do a little more testing a little more than a decade ago, and it would be apart of the routine weights and measures that we already do.”