District of Columbia officials, under fire from gasoline station owners, have agreed to temporarily hold off enforcing a new law requiring dealers as of today to install pollution control devices, including black, accordion-like sleeves, on the nozzles of their gas pumps.
Attorneys for the city made the agreement with lawyers representing the dealers in a closed meeting yesterday with D.C. Superior Court Judge James A. Washington, Jr., after the dealers filed suit seeking a temporary restraining order to bar the city from enforcing the antipollution law that requires the devices.
Washington scheduled a court hearing Monday to hear arguments from both sides on the dealers' request.
The law is part of legislation originally passed in 1974 that officials hope will bring the city into compliance with federal clean air standards by 1987. The law requires dealers to install and maintain equipment on their pumps to capture gasoline fumes that otherwise would float into the atmosphere.
The District of Columbia and some jurisdictions in California are the only places that require such devices. The dealers contend that the requirements place an unfair financial burden on them, and chase customers into Maryland and Virginia, where the equipment is not required. The dealers also contend that the equipment will not reduce pollution as much as authorities say it will.
City officials yesterday declined to comment on the suit.
Most of the city's 174 dealers already have installed the vapor-catching equipment, which includes underground storage tanks, pipes, and a pump nozzle with a rubber sleeve.
The nozzles require extra pressure to hold them in the tank during fill-up, and a number of dealers have complained about them. "You get a little old lady, and she can't do it," said Wayne Binsted, owner of an Exxon station in Northwest Washington. Some exasperated customers simply throw the nozzles to the ground, he said.
Furthermore, Binsted said, malfunctions in the nozzle can cause gasoline to pump continuously in a reverse flow out of the car tank and back underground.