STPUD voices displeasure with state’s delay of MTBE phaseout |

STPUD voices displeasure with state’s delay of MTBE phaseout

by Andy Bourelle

A South Tahoe Public Utility District official on Thursday publicly expressed strong disapproval of the action that removed a 2002 deadline from California’s phaseout of the controversial fuel additive MTBE.

Chris Strohm, vice president of STPUD’s board of directors, said that while the district’s official response had been “a measured one,” he personally felt upset.

“It almost seemed like (the governor was) reneging on his promise,” Strohm said at an STPUD board meeting Thursday. “The truth is as long as we have MTBE in the gas, it’s going to get into the water one way or another.”

Gov. Gray Davis in March ordered that oil companies stop adding MTBE to fuel by Dec. 31, 2002. Last month, however, Davis signed into law an amended bill that removed the deadline.

“I’m disappointed the date slipped,” Strohm said.

The board on Thursday met with Lynn Suter, a legislative aide hired by the district nearly a year ago, for an update of several bills in the California Legislature that could affect STPUD.

Suter, while understanding the board’s reaction, said she believed the governor sincerely wanted to help with the problem.

“The legislature, I think, is very strongly in your corner. The administration is, too,” she said.

MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether – is considered a possible human carcinogen. It is a gasoline additive used widely in California and has contaminated as many as 14,000 groundwater sites in the state. STPUD, the primary water purveyor on the south shore of Tahoe, has closed more than a third of its wells because of MTBE contamination.

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