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Oregon bans gas top-offs

The days of asking a gas station attendant to top off your tank for that little bit of extra fuel are over, according to the Department of Environmental Quality.

A ban on topping off went into effect Wednesday as part of the state's commitment to fighting air pollution from gas stations, said DEQ spokesman William Knight.

Topping off is when a gas station attendant continues to fill a tank after the nozzle clicks off. The action can cause the tank to overflow, sending harmful gas vapors into the atmosphere, Knight said.

"Despite what some drivers believe, topping off can be bad for your car and the environment," Knight said.

Overfilling a tank can damage it by causing too much pressure to build inside the tank. This usually happens in hot weather as gasoline vapors expand in the heat.

Also, many newer nozzles, particularly in larger cities, have a backflow-capture device built in that automatically sucks in the overflow gas, causing customers to pay for gas they don't receive, Knight said.

"There are plenty of reasons topping off is not a good idea," Knight said.

The ban follows the federal government's rules last year calling for tightened air quality for gas stations nationwide. Oregon has adopted tougher standards than required in an attempt to reduce pollution from gasoline vapors by an estimated 28 tons per year.

Federal standards only apply to facilities that dispense 100,000 gallons per month and does not address topping off at the pump.

"We thought this would be easy to do in Oregon, since we employ people whose job it is to fill drivers' gas tanks," Knight said. "The rules will be sent to all gas stations so workers can be educated."

In addition, DEQ adopted new measures pertaining to how gasoline is transferred and stored at gas stations. Stations across the state now must be equipped with airtight controls when gas is transferred from a tractor trailer to storage tanks.

Medford stations already are equipped with these controls, along with stations in the Salem and Portland areas.