Fuel additive may be banned in basin | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Fuel additive may be banned in basin

South Shore officials don’t believe the California government is getting MTBE out of the Lake Tahoe Basin fast enough.

Those feelings might change based on a meeting Friday, but the South Tahoe Public Utility District, city of South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County currently are planning to move forward with action to eliminate MTBE from South Shore’s gasoline by July 1.

Next week each agency is considering the formation of a cooperative agreement, which the agencies believe will help eliminate gas containing MTBE from the basin portion of El Dorado County.

If the agreement is approved by each agency, the new three-member board, composed of one board member from each of the government agencies, will be called the Lake Tahoe Region Water Preservation Committee.

The authority will not specifically ban MTBE, according to Dawn Forsythe, spokeswoman for STPUD. However, it will make selling MTBE gasoline impossible.

Essentially what will happen, Forsythe said, is that El Dorado County Environmental Management will not issue permits to gas stations not serving MTBE-free gas.

“It’s coming together,” Forsythe said. “And it isn’t like this will be a surprise to anyone in the petroleum industry. Each agency has been saying (they want a local ban of MTBE) since last fall.”

Officials still hope the three-way agreement will not be necessary.

In March Gov. Gray Davis directed the Air Resource Board and Energy Commission to “work with the petroleum industry to supply MTBE-free California-compliant gasoline year around to the Lake Tahoe region at the earliest possible date.”

Representatives from CARB and the Energy Commission are scheduled to speak today at a public meeting in South Lake Tahoe.

“The reason the county hasn’t unveiled its ban ordinance is we’re really looking forward to what the state agencies are going to tell us on Friday,” Forsythe said. “We’re going to be asking them for assistance and information that will help us take action here.”

If officials don’t like what they hear today, it’s hello, cooperative agreement.

“It’s my intention to move as rapidly as possible,” said Dave Solaro, El Dorado County supervisor. “The sooner the better. Obviously, the intention is to get voluntary compliance from all the gas stations in the basin.”

Solaro said he would introduce an ordinance for the basin portion of the county first. Later, he plans to introduce a countywide ordinance.

MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether – is a fuel additive widely used in California. It has contaminated thousands of sites throughout the state, and STPUD has closed more than one-third of its wells because of groundwater contamination.

One major oil company already is supplying MTBE-free gas to the California side of the basin, and two others have promised to do it this summer.

What: El Dorado County meeting

When: May 18, 10 a.m.

Where: Tahoe Paradise Resort Improvement District Fieldhouse, 1011 East San Bernardino, Meyers

What: South Lake Tahoe City Council meeting

When: May 18, 6 p.m.

Where: City Council Chambers, 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

What: STPUD meeting

When: May 20, 2 p.m.

Where: City Council Chambers, 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

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