Public Utility District gains needed support against MTBE |

Public Utility District gains needed support against MTBE

by Andy Bourelle

Three down and none to go.

With a 4-0 vote Thursday, the South Tahoe Public Utility District Board of Directors secured the formation of a cooperative agreement with El Dorado County and the city of South Lake Tahoe.

Officials hope it will help the government agencies fight the controversial fuel additive MTBE.

The other two agencies approved the agreement May 18 at their regular meetings.

South Lake Tahoe Mayor Judy Brown, El Dorado County Supervisor Dave Solaro and STPUD Director Pembroke Gochnauer will comprise the newly formed board.

The California Energy Commission has agreed to supply the authority – termed the Lake Tahoe Region Water Preservation Committee – with a list and time line of which South Shore gas stations soon will be served with MTBE-free gasoline.

After that, the board will decide its next step.

Dawn Forsythe, STPUD information officer, said it likely will only take a few meetings before the committee establishes a game plan.

“We’ve been dealing with this for a long time,” she said. “I think they know pretty much, in their minds, what kind of opportunities are available.”

One possibility would be an El Dorado County ordinance requiring service stations in the basin portion of the county to serve MTBE-free gasoline. If they didn’t, El Dorado County Environmental Management could revoke their operating permits.

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 a third of its wells because of groundwater contamination.

Gov. Gray Davis issued an order in March calling for the elimination of MTBE by the end of 2002. He also directed the California Air Resources Board and Energy Commission to work with the oil industry to have MTBE-free fuel delivered to the basin.

The formation of the agreement comes as a result of concern that progress is not being made fast enough.

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

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