Pumps to show half-gallon prices in Pa.


By SHELBY SCHROEDER

Ohio will not strike the same deal with station owners.

Nearly 500 gas pumps in Pennsylvania may be charging by the half-gallon in coming weeks, but officials say Ohio will not follow their lead.

Last week, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell said stations could be issued temporary licenses if their pumps were unable to price gas above $3.99.

Non-digital displays may be limited to digits below $4. With anticipation that fuel prices will top that in the future, gas stations without updated pumps would run the risk of false advertisement. The state’s Department of Agriculture will provide sign update kits as a temporary solution.

Ohio will not strike the same deal with station owners, according to Jim Truex, the chief of Weights and Measures for the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Truex said stations were dealt a similar problem when gas prices hit the $3 mark in September 2005. At that time, station owners were given 30 days to update their fuel pumps to accommodate the rising prices and were allowed to charge by the half-gallon.

“We are quite aware of pumps with computer limitations,” said Truex. He added that it was inexcusable that some stations did not comply three years ago.

“Ohio weights and measures [officials] were told to instruct gas station owners to think about the future and update [their pumps]. If we allowed half-pricing again, we’d be making a liar out of them,” Truex said.

The press secretary for the Ohio governor’s office said it does not have plans to assist stations that cannot sell gas at full price.

Truex estimates that fewer than 200 pumps in Ohio are ill-equipped and will not register gas prices above $3.99. Complicating matters, he said, is that the surge to purchase new pump technology has created a “backlog” of orders.

In Pennsylvania, gas stations must meet requirements for half-gallon pricing. The sign on the dispenser must be altered to some strict variation of “one-half total sale,” and an additional sign must state the per-gallon price.

Street advertisements must still display the price per gallon.

If station owners qualify, they must give assurance to the governor’s office that they will upgrade their dispensers within a “reasonable” period. Chris Ryder, press secretary for the Pennsylvania department of agriculture, said there is no set time for which fuel centers must upgrade.

Cindy Brown, communications director for Ohio’s Weights and Measures division, said fuel stations still have options. If they cannot purchase new pumps in time, they can either take a profit cut by offering their fuel for $3.99 per gallon, or they can shut down.

Mahoning County has 28 pumps that must be updated. Officials from the Columbiana and Trumbull bureaus of Weights and Measures were unavailable to give pump counts in their counties.

According to AAA, Ohio’s average gas price for Friday was .001 cents above Pennsylvania’s, at $3.967 per gallon.

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