Reacting to a growing consumer environmentalism, Amoco Oil Co. is equipping local gas stations with a system that will help reduce the region's smog two years before a federal deadline would require it.
"Our customers tell us the environment is one of the main issues on their minds," said John C. Berman, Amoco's vice president for East Coast marketing, as he announced yesterday that the company is installing new nozzles to recover gasoline vapors at 12 of its 120 Baltimore area stations.
Just a year and a half ago, Amoco joined other oil companies in helping to kill a bill before the Maryland legislature that would have required installation of the system by July 1.
Mr. Berman justified that opposition yesterday by saying the company wasn't sure at the time it could have its vapor recovery system in place so soon.
Baltimore drivers who fill up at Amoco gas stations may notice the pump nozzles are larger and heavier, but they are far easier to use than the traditional accordion-style in use in many Washington, D.C., gas stations. Amoco dealer Carl M. Adair said his customers are also commenting about the lack of fumes when they fill up.
"I don't seem to have as much trouble putting gas in as I used to," said Herbert Naylor of Baltimore, who filled up at the Amoco on 25th Street and Greenmount Avenue.
"It is bigger and heavier. You do notice a difference," said Verna Sivells of Baltimore, who added that she didn't notice the usual noxious fumes.
Besides cutting down on the city's smog problems, the vapor recovery system will lower the public's exposure to gasoline fumes, which contain benzene, a cancer-causing chemical.The Baltimore area is one of the smoggiest in the country.
Under the federal Clean Air Act, the state is required to reduce the tons of volatile organic compounds -- such as gasoline vapors -- that are released here into the lower atmosphere and react with sunlight to cause ozone. In the lower atmosphere, ozone is harmful to human health. In the upper atmosphere, it protects humans from the harmful effects of the sun's rays.
So far this summer, Baltimore has exceeded the federal air pollution standards on six days, a record similar to last summer. But when gas stations in the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas install the new nozzles, the region's air will be substantially better, according to George Ferreri, chief of the state's Air Management Administration.
Ozone can make breathing difficult for children and older people and may permanently reduce the lung capacity of healthy adults.
Besides Baltimore, Amoco dealers are installing the patented new nozzles in Philadelphia, New York City, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. The $40,000 cost per station to install the equipment is being paid in part by the dealers and in part by the company, depending on whether the company owns the station or leases it to a dealer. Amoco, based in Chicago, hopes to install the equipment in all of its Baltimore area stations during the next two years.
Other oil companies, such as Crown Central Petroleum, have been revamping their underground gas tanks to handle the new system, said Tom Lattanzi, director of corporate relations.
Here are the Amoco gas stations where pumps are now fitted with air pollution equipment:
4608 Liberty Heights Ave.
2391 Frederick Ave.
6220 Reisterstown Road
1465 Key Highway East
2500 Greenmount Ave.
2400 E. Joppa Road
9604 Reisterstown Road
2100 Merritt Blvd.
9109 Baltimore National Pike
Anne Arundel County
5502 Ritchie Highway