MONTGOMERY — The state official charged with inspecting gasoline pumps says he doesn’t have the manpower to evaluate each one annually and wants lawmakers to put the burden on station owners.
Alabama Agriculture and Industries commissioner John McMillan said Tuesday there are gasoline pumps in the state that haven’t been inspected in at least five years. One inspection sticker he’d seen recently in Mobile was seven years old.
State law requires pumps to be inspected once a year.
“It doesn’t take a very intelligent person to figure out we are not complying with state law,” Daniel Autrey, chief of staff for the department, said at a board meeting Tuesday.
The department also is responsible for inspecting almost every other scale the public comes in contact with during commerce.
Department officials blame budget cuts for the lack of inspections. In 2011, 91 of its nearly 400 employees lost their jobs. It has gone from more than 20 inspectors to five.
The department is working on proposed legislation that would make business owners responsible for inspecting the pumps and other scales. The inspections would be done by what the department calls “registered service agents.”
“If you own a service station, you would be required by state law to make sure you’re having your pumps inspected yearly,” Autrey said.
Department officials said they don’t have a lawmaker in mind to sponsor the proposed bill.
State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said he doesn’t know much about the department’s proposal, but could support it.
“If it will help with more frequent enforcement without compromising the quality of the inspection, then yes, absolutely,” Orr said.
The service agents would provide inspection information to the agriculture department, which wants to build a database of every gas station in the state.
McMillan said his office doesn’t know how many gasoline stations are operating in Alabama because they can open and close quickly.
State Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said monitoring gasoline pumps and other weights and measures has long been an agriculture department responsibility and it should stay that way.
“They ought to be responsibile for it,” he said. “You want an elected official overseeing that.”
The department still would do spot checks on stations where problems are reported, McMillan said.
The TimesDaily reported last year that 7,851 of the 90,523 fuels pumps inspected in 2006 failed the inspection, based on department numbers. About half the pumps failing inspection were dispensing too much fuel.
In addition, the lack of inspectors also prevents department officials from checking the accuracy of about 20,000 scales used in meat and produce departments of grocery stores and other businesses where products are sold by weight.
“We regulate everything from gas pumps to large weight scales to small scales at pawn shops,” Autrey said.
Mary Sell can be reached at mary.sell@TimesDaily.com.