Winter oxygenate rule lifted to get rid of MTBE
KINGS BEACH – Lake Tahoe’s bistate regulatory board Wednesday approved lifting the wintertime oxygenate rule for the basin, a move that is supposed to help in the continued effort to rid the area of MTBE-laden fuel.
“I’m really pleased TRPA is moving in this direction,” said Dave Solaro, El Dorado County’s representative on the Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “It will really help us preserve our water.”
Jim Allison, a TRPA planner, said the action would not significantly affect Tahoe’s wintertime air quality.
In hindsight, according to TRPA, including the requirement in its code was not necessary.
The California Air Resources Board took similar action last month.
With TRPA’s action, now there are no regulations requiring fuel sold at Lake Tahoe to contain an oxygenate, such as MTBE.
MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether – in recent years has been widely used in the Tahoe Basin. However, it has contaminated a variety of groundwater sites, and South Shore’s primary water purveyor has lost the use of more than a third of its wells because of contamination.
The federal Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 required that gasoline sold in areas with severe air pollution contain a higher amount of oxygen so gasoline would burn more completely. Lake Tahoe was not one of those areas; however, to maintain high-quality air in the winter, TRPA and CARB both adopted standards requiring oxygenates be used at Tahoe during the winter.
Additionally, because much of California’s gas needed oxygenates, MTBE-laden gas was frequently used at Tahoe.
Gov. Gray Davis in March ordered a three-year phaseout of MTBE in California. And he said state agencies had to work with oil companies to get MTBE-free gas to the California side of Tahoe as soon as possible. Already that is happening, with more than half of the fueling station’s on the California side of the basin MTBE-free.
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