Shell getting MTBE-free gas |

Shell getting MTBE-free gas

Sarah Gonser

By early June, three more gas stations in South Lake Tahoe should be selling MTBE-free gasoline.

Shell is the third oil company to commit to Gov. Gray Davis’ March 25 decision to phase out the fuel additive in California by 2002.

“We’re doing this to be responsive to the governor’s request to help out Tahoe first in the elimination of MTBE,” said Dave McKinney, spokesman for Shell marketer Equilon Enterprises. “Whatever the additional costs, we consider it a part of bringing gas to Tahoe.”

There are 18 active gas stations in South Lake Tahoe and Meyers. Shell’s commitment, combined with that of Union 76 supplier Tosco, and three Chevron stations, would bring the total number of MTBE-free gas stations to eight – that’s 44 percent, or, almost halfway toward eliminating MTBE from Tahoe’s gasoline supply.

“We’re very much looking forward to the day Shell’s yellow trucks come into Tahoe, delivering MTBE-free gasoline. In my 30 years in the business, I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Bob Baer, general manager of the South Tahoe Public Utility District, referring to the progress and communication between the district and the governor’s office. “I have every expectation that the governor will succeed in making Tahoe MTBE free.”

But Shell’s decision is not nearly enough to please everybody.

Joseph Montoya, Stateline Shell station owner, feels Shell’s commitment, although crucial to the health of Tahoe Basin water supplies, seems like just another maneuver in a whole string of troublesome decisions.

“It was a problem that needed to be corrected, and that’s OK with me,” Montoya said about the decision to ban MTBE. “But the thing is the service stations had no choice in the first place – you have to sell the gas the government wants you to sell, we have no control over that. Now we’re being sued. We were forced to sell it, now we have to pay for it.”

At last count, eight area gas stations were being sued by South Tahoe Public Utility District for contributing to the contamination, as well as several manufacturers and suppliers, said Dawn Forsythe, public affairs officer for the water district.

Want To Talk About It?

The California Energy Commission and the Air Resources Board will review Davis administration efforts to remove MTBE from gasoline sold in Tahoe.

WHAT: MTBE public meeting

WHEN: May 14, 1 p.m.

WHERE: City Council Chambers, 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd. South Lake Tahoe

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