MTBE-free status for entire basin? |

MTBE-free status for entire basin?

Andy Bourelle

Lake Tahoe agencies fighting the controversial gasoline additive MTBE may soon have a new ally – the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

The governing board of the bistate regulatory agency Wednesday will receive a report on the possibility of designating the Lake Tahoe region an MTBE-free zone.

“We’re digging into the issue right now, trying to determine what way to go with this,” said John Marshall, TRPA legal counsel. “I think what we’ll be doing at the meeting is bringing the board up to speed on MTBE.”

MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether – is a gasoline additive comprising 11 percent of California’s gasoline. It is used to reduce vehicle emissions. However, it is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a possible human carcinogen.

MTBE has contaminated groundwater sites throughout California, including 10 plumes in South Lake Tahoe. Many of those plumes are responsible for the closing of 35 percent of the South Tahoe Public Utility District’s drinking water wells.

The University of California, Davis, last week released a several hundred page-thick report on MTBE, recommending the gradual phase-out of the additive in California.

“I think we’re going to rely heavily on that report when briefing our board,” said Pam Drum, TRPA public affairs coordinator.

The MTBE agenda item is for discussion only.

“I think everyone believes we would all be better off without MTBE in our gasoline, but how do we get to that point? And what are the consequences,” Marshall said. “I think that’s what we’re trying to look at.”

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