Stations still serve MTBE |

Stations still serve MTBE

A statewide regulation supposed to force all gas stations serving MTBE-laden fuel to label their pumps as such may not do much good, some believe.

“The problem is there’s really no one enforcing it,” said Dennis Cocking, spokesman for the South Tahoe Public Utility District, an agency which has fought for years to get MTBE-free gas to Lake Tahoe. “It’s hard for people to take this too seriously if no one’s around checking on it.”

At the direction of California Gov. Gray Davis, the state air board passed an ordinance earlier this year requiring gas stations selling MTBE-laden fuel to label that on their pumps. The rule went into effect Dec. 16.

However, no stations on California’s side of South Shore – including five which the state still has not recognized as MTBE-free – have labels yet.

Allan Hirsch, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, said the agency will conduct periodic testing but didn’t know when the next round of sampling would happen at Tahoe.

“If our inspectors turn up a substantial amount of MTBE in unlabeled gas, that would be a violation, and we would take enforcement action,” he said. “Most likely, there would be a fine.”

The last time CARB sampled Tahoe’s stations was September. Six stations – including the Roadrunner, Meyers Beacon, Tahoe Tom’s, Ski Run Gas and Wash and Swiss Mart stations – were serving MTBE-laden gas at that time. One of the recalcitrant stations, Terrible Herbst, has reportedly started serving MTBE-free fuel.

Tahoe, in the meantime, may be the least of CARB’s worries right now. The state and oil companies have made special efforts to get MTBE-free gas to Tahoe, and it is virtually the only place in California where a majority of the stations are MTBE-free.

However, Cocking said the special recognition Tahoe is getting in regards to this issue is precisely why the state should be checking more frequently.

“It would be great if they came up and gave us more frequency of testing and checking the labeling, especially since the governor has sort of given us special attention,” Cocking said.

MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether – is a gasoline additive used widely in California. However, it has contaminated as many as 14,000 sites in the state, and Gov. Davis has ordered it phased out of use by the end of 2002. Another part of his order, made earlier this March, was that the state work with oil companies to provide MTBE-free fuel to the Tahoe area sooner.

Tahoe gas stations are not required to provide MTBE-free gas.

Stations still serving MTBE-laden fuel as of a September test include:


Meyers Beacon

Tahoe Tom’s

Ski Run Gas and Wash

Swiss Mart

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