SAN FRANCISCO - State air pollution regulators said Monday that California's air quality is not expected to worsen appreciably after the governor ordered the release of a dirtier blend of gasoline to help slash record-high pump prices.
The California Air Resources Board issued a regulatory advisory a day earlier after Gov. Jerry Brown ordered them to allow so-called "winter-blend" gasoline to be sold in California earlier than usual to increase supply.
AAA said the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in California hit $4.668 Monday - the highest price in the nation and an all-time high for the Golden State.
Analysts said the spike has been driven by refinery disruptions and corrosion issues in an important pipeline.
California usually converts to the gas on Oct. 31. The fuel evaporates in heat more quickly than summer-blends, so it sends more pollutants into the environment, especially in warm weather.
Gil Duran, a spokesman for Brown, said the governor looked at all the options available, particularly scientists' prediction that such a change would not have a significant effect on the environment and "when he learned this could increase the supply by 8 to 10 percent, it just made sense."
Sunday's action was the first time since 2005 - when gas supplies were affected by refinery disruptions in the wake of Hurricane Katrina - that the air board has approved early conversion to winter-gas blends.
Officials said it could take days before prices fall, depending on how quickly refineries can get the winter-blend fuel to market.
The third day of record-setting prices at the pump has also prompted calls for a federal investigation.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on Monday asked the Department of Justice to look into whether maintenance issues at refineries were being used as an excuse to drive up energy prices.
Boxer's request came a day after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate, saying residents need to be protected from "malicious trading schemes."