MTBE legislation pouring in |

MTBE legislation pouring in

The bills continue to roll in.

However, these are the types of bills South Lake Tahoe’s major water supplier likes to see.

Lake Tahoe’s representative in the California Senate announced Monday he has introduced a bill that would prohibit the sale of gasoline containing the controversial fuel additive MTBE.

“The time has come to admit the obvious: We shouldn’t sacrifice the safety of our drinking water supply by continuing to use an unnecessary and potentially dangerous substance in our gasoline,” said State Sen. Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City.

Leslie had indicated his intention to introduce the bill in January, one day after Lake Tahoe’s State Assembly representative, Thomas “Rico” Oller, R-San Andreas, introduced a similar bill in the Assembly.

“I think it’s more than significant that both Assemblyman Oller and Sen. Leslie are leading the state in this effort to get rid of MTBE,” said Dawn Forsythe, information officer for the South Tahoe Public Utility District.

Don Perata, D-Alameda, and Dick Mountjoy, R-Arcadia, both also have introduced bills in the Senate, calling for a ban of the additive.

“It’s also significant that this is almost identical legislation as bills by Democratic representatives,” Forsythe said. “This shows a bipartisan, concerted effort to try save our drinking water. There are some things that rise above political persuasion, and MTBE is one of them.”

Leslie’s legislation – Senate Bill 272 – contains an urgency clause, which allows the bill to take effect immediately upon the signature of the governor.

“Unless we act now to remove MTBE from our gas, we run the risk of contaminating even more water supplies throughout the state,” Leslie said. “The contamination may become so widespread that California will no longer be able to afford the clean-up costs.”

MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether – is a fuel additive used extensively in California to reduce air pollution. However, it is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a possible cancer-causing agent and has contaminated more than 10,000 groundwater sites in California.

Since September 1997, STPUD closed more than one-third of its wells because of MTBE. The district required water-usage restrictions for part of the 1998 summer, and, to date, MTBE-related costs for the district are about $1.5 million.

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