Assembly bill would ban MTBE |

Assembly bill would ban MTBE

If California Assemblyman Thomas “Rico” Oller has his way, the controversial gasoline additive MTBE will be banned from use in California.

Oller, R-San Andreas, Wednesday introduced legislation – Assembly Bill 129 – that would ban the use of MTBE.

“It’s time to get MTBE out of our gasoline and out of our water,” Oller said.

To the South Tahoe Public Utility District, which has closed more than one-third of its drinking water wells because of the threat of MTBE contamination, it is good news.

“We’re grateful for Oller’s energetic support on this issue,” said Dawn Forsythe, STPUD information officer. “Counties all over, especially in Northern California, are crying out for a ban.”

If passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, Oller’s AB 129 would overturn the California Air Resources Board regulation which requires the use of MTBE or similar additives in gasoline and would prohibit any further use of MTBE in the state. It would take effect immediately.

“MTBE is a health hazard to every Californian,” Oller said. “While state and federal bureaucrats continue to point fingers at each other, more and more of our groundwater supplies are being contaminated.”

MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether – is is an oxygenated fuel additive comprising significant amounts of California’s gasoline. It is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a possible cancer-causing agent. MTBE-contaminated water has a horrible turpentine-like taste and odor, and most people can detect its presence in water even below federal and state action levels.

From September 1997 to September 1998, STPUD closed 10 of its 34 wells because of MTBE in their vicinity and destroyed two that were contaminated. STPUD required water-usage restrictions for part of the 1998 summer, and, to date, MTBE-related costs for the district are about $1.5 million.

“I hope this (bill) survives,” Forsythe said. “We just cannot stand another year like we had in 1998.”

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