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REFORMULATED GAS BRINGS GRIPES FROM MOWER, POWER TOOL OWNERS

Spring may be starting, but some lawnmowers and chain saws coming out of storage aren't, and their owners blame a new reformulated gasoline.

Some critics say the gas, which was designed to help clean up the air, actually dirties engines and impairs performance. Experts say there's no trouble, but the reports continue to surface.

"The auto industry can't document it, the (Environmental Protection Agency) can't document it, but there's all this anecdotal evidence," said Dennis Bailey, press officer for Maine Gov. Angus King, one of many officials hearing complaints from their constituents.

About one-third of all the gas now sold in the United States is reformulated gasoline. It was initially mandated by the EPA to help ease air pollution in Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore, New York and five other major cities, and has subsequently been required by several states.

Motorists using the new gas have reported headaches, nausea and skin irritation. No adverse health effects have been proven, though an additive in the new gas has been shown to cause cancer in animals when given in high doses.

Now, automotive experts and drivers are complaining of poor engine performance.

Ted L. Maloy, a retired oil refinery supervisor, says he's noticed poor performance in his four cars -- American and foreign-made alike -- since the new gasoline was introduced in January.

Homeowners say their chain saws, lawnmowers and other power tools with two-cycle engines won't start.

"Individuals with two-cycle engines are experiencing engine failure because the oil is separating from the gasoline," said Stephen J. Lavallee, owner of Transmission Engine Service and Technology, a Lawrence, Mass., testing center that is analyzing the new gas for a domestic automaker Lavallee declined to name.

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