Texas gasoline could go largely unregulated if bill moves forward

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texans may not be able to complain about the quality of the gasoline they are pumping into their cars, if a bill changing the rules for motor fuel moves forward at the Texas Capitol.

The legislation has already passed the Texas House and is being considered in the Senate.

The intent of House Bill 2366 is to clarify legislation that passed last session, to protect people who buy gasoline statewide, according to the bill’s author, State Rep. Drew Darby.

“The department should seek fair and reasonable enforcement methods for the motor fuel metering and motor fuel quality programs,” Darby, a San Angelo Republican, told a House committee in April.

The bill would exempt most regular unleaded gas from being tested, even if a complaint is filed.

“The department may not test motor fuel based on a complaint made about fuel with an octane rating less than 88 under ASTM standards,” the bill reads.

Leadership in Texas Department of Agriculture are wary of the bill.

“When we had all the rain and everything and there were some gas stations, or one particular gas station that had water that got into their fuel tanks,” Texas Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner Dan Hunter said.

“If you buy unleaded regular gas, (under this bill) you would not only not be able to have any recourse with regards to being able to recoup any losses you might have to a bad engine or anything, you cannot even file a complaint,” Hunter lamented.

The Texas Food and Fuel Association backs the legislation.

“Anything below 88 octane that there’s no need to test it — that’s in here and we feel strongly about that,” Texas Food and Fuel Association President Paul Hardin told lawmakers at the April committee hearing.

The bill also limits the Texas Department of Agriculture’s ability to test other gasoline, requring a complaint first.

The bill states: “An authorized representative of the commissioner may test any motor fuel sold in this state, but only in response to [regardless of the existence of] a complaint about the fuel.”

“Simply gives us the belts and suspenders if you will both in the short term and perhaps the long term with regard to the monitoring of this program,” Darby said back in April.

Hunter said Texans could pay the price. He reads the bill to indicate much of the gas on the market would no longer be subject to oversight.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the losers are the people of the state of Texas. The winners are of course big gas and companies who want less oversight on their product. The loser is the family, the consumer and Texans,” Hunter said.

House lawmakers approved legislation in the Senate on Thursday that would move gas regulation powers from the Texas Department of Agriculture and hand them over to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. This comes amid calls from Agriculture Sid Miller for state lawmakers to give his team more power over fuel regulation and card skimmer operations.

Rep. Darby declined a request to be interviewed for this report, but provided a statement through a spokesperson:

“House Bill 2366 is an important consumer protection bill  to ensure that the motor-fuel industry is well-regulated and that consumers are protected. “The Legislation is important because it will require the Department of Agriculture to contract with fuel testing facilities by geographic region in Texas, as opposed to one lab in Indiana. This will ensure that all fuel quality testing is done in an efficient manner, so that consumers and industry receive results timely. Additionally, the bill will require a proof of purchase so that consumers may identify the exact pump in question when the file any complaint.”

Multiple requests for comment from the Texas Food and Fuel Association were unreturned.

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