HL Deb 11 March 1997 vol 579 cc19-20WA
Lord Gainford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made in response to the recommendation of the 1995 House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment to introduce petrol vapour recovery for vehicle refuelling ("Stage II").

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers)

In response to a recommendation from the House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment, we undertook to consider the case of implementation of the "Stage II" petrol vapour recovery system at service stations once the results of further research into its costs were available. Stage II is designed to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds. These can be harmful in their own right and also contribute to the formation of ground level ozone, which can have adverse effects on human health and on the environment.

Research has demonstrated that Stage II offers better value for money then alternative methods for reducing emissions arising from vehicle refuelling at petrol stations. Stage II also compares favourably with abatement techniques used in other industry sectors. The Government therefore intend to consult later this year on proposals for the introduction of Stage II controls at certain petrol stations.

In so doing, we shall be seeking to involve the petroleum industry and other interested parties as fully as possible. The final adoption of the proposals will be based on consideration of the overall costs and benefits. Our research has indicated that the cost per tonne of volatile organic compounds abated rises rapidly at smaller stations and this will obviously influence our proposals. We are particularly aware of the need to avoid imposing any unnecessary costs and regulatory burdens on small stations, especially those in rural areas, where availability of supply can be a problem.

Preliminary research undertaken for my department has indicated that evaporative emissions during vehicle refuelling may also contribute to ambient levels of benzene around some petrol stations which exceed the proposed national air quality standard. Over the coming year we shall be carrying out further research to evaluate the extent of this problem and to consider the potential abatement options.