TRPA talks about MTBE |

TRPA talks about MTBE

Andy Bourelle

The status report on regulations relating to motorized watercraft at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Wednesday meeting facilitated a discussion about a specific gasoline additive – MTBE.

The governing board of the regional agency asked TRPA staff to find out more and report back to the board on how to get Lake Tahoe MTBE-free.

“I think this agency needs to take a positive, more-active role than we have in regards to MTBE,” said John Upton, the El Dorado County representative on the governing board.

Steve Wynn, the Nevada at-large member, said he agreed. He described MTBE as “sort of a new monster that has raised its head,” and said TRPA traditionally has served a leadership role regarding environmental issues.

If TRPA were to take more proactive approach in the MTBE issue, more agencies might follow.

MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether – is a gasoline additive used to help reduce air pollution. However, when MTBE gets into water, its presence can be harmful.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified it as a possible carcinogen, meaning it could be a cancer-causing agent.

Ten drinking water wells have been shut down in South Lake Tahoe because of the threat of MTBE.

“We can identify an environmental problem and not look over our shoulders,” he said.

Regarding the update on the motorized watercraft regulations, TRPA staff member Gabby Barrett said, “Everything seems to be going well.”

University of California, Davis Tahoe Research Group, University of Nevada, Reno and U.S. Geological Survey studies are moving as planned, and surveys are being conducted.

Barrett said the information would be available in time for December.

TRPA announced recently that its ban on two-stroke engines – effective June 1, 1999 – would be replaced in December with an ordinance following the California Resources Board’s new emission regulations.

A public hearing also is scheduled in December to allow TRPA to react to any new information.

The proceedings of the lawsuit filed against TRPA have been stayed – or temporarily put on hold – because of TRPA’s indication that its regulation might change.

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