Wilson OKs bill to research MTBE cleanup research | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wilson OKs bill to research MTBE cleanup research

Andy Bourelle

California Gov. Pete Wilson signed a bill late Wednesday that has the South Tahoe Public Utility District not quite as upset with him as it was earlier this week.

Senate Bill 2198 allows $5 million a year for three years to be earmarked for research and cleanup of California public drinking water sources contaminated by cleaner-burning gasoline leaking from storage tanks.

Wilson earlier vetoed Assembly Bill 1642, which had the district calling him “blind, deaf and dumb on South Tahoe’s water contamination crisis.”

STPUD officials are pleased he signed SB 2198.

“One thing we’re very happy about is this bill includes the cost of investigation for reimbursement,” said STPUD Information Officer Dawn Forsythe. “The district will be eligible for reimbursement for the hundreds of thousands of dollars of investigation we’ve had to perform.”

The Oxygenated Fuels Association – which supports the use of MTBE – applauded the signing of the bill, indicating that leaking fuel tanks are the leading cause of gasoline contamination of the environment.

“We need to find ways to assure (MTBE) is properly handled and kept out of our drinking water,” said Terry Wigglesworth, executive director for the OFA. “That way Californians can continue to enjoy the benefits of clean air without compromising the water they drink.”

MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether – is an oxygenate used in fuels to reduce vehicle emissions while maintaining high levels of performance. It is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a possible cancer-causing agent.

Assembly Bill 1642 could have reduced California’s dependence on using MTBE.

It would have allowed reformulated gasoline to be blended without regard to existing oxygen content standards unless the California Air Resources Board demonstrated an adverse impact to the emission that could be attributed to the increased oxygen content.

Forsythe said STPUD was happy with the governor’s signature on SB 2198 but wished he would have signed both bills.

“To clean it up after it happens is absolutely necessary,” she said. “Stopping it before it happens is better.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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