Governor hints at MTBE phase-out decision |

Governor hints at MTBE phase-out decision

Gov. Gray Davis said Wednesday he has decided the fate of the fuel additive MTBE and hinted that he will order a gradual phase-out of the controversial compound.

South Shore officials are waiting to see the details of the phaseout before they can say whether it will be a good more for Lake Tahoe.

“We hope that when he speaks of a phaseout that the phaseout begins with an immediate ban in Tahoe,” said Dawn Forsythe, information officer for the South Tahoe Public Utility District. “In all of the previous talks I’ve heard about a phaseout, it’s just been a drop-dead date. If he says, ‘Well, MTBE can be used for three more years,’ that won’t help us at all. If he says, ‘I want MTBE phased out, beginning with an immediate ban in the Tahoe Basin,’ and we’ll be provided with MTBE-free gas soon, that is the type of phaseout we want.”

The Democratic governor, who is expected to publicly announce his long-awaited decision on Friday, told a gathering of reporters at the state Capitol that he wanted to make sure that ”any decision I might make is phased in over time to give the market and the industries the time necessary to accommodate market conditions.”

He did not disclose his decision, but he signaled that he has made up his mind to look to other pollution-fighting compounds.

”The decision I made will protect the environment, it will prevent any undue increases in gas prices, and it will assure that if an alternative (to MTBE) is used, that it will be tested and shown to be safe as it impacts the land, the water and the air,” he told reporters.

MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether – is a fuel oxygenate widely used in California, because many officials believe it helps clean up the state’s air pollution. However, the additive has contaminated more than 10,000 groundwater sites in California. More than one-third of STPUD’s drinking water wells have been closed because of MTBE contamination.

“We have been talking with members of the (Davis) administration, and they recognize the problems we have been having,” Forsythe said. “I don’t think, knowing what they know, that they will turn their backs on us.”

– The Associated Press contributed to this report

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