Congress Debates Who Should Pay For Chemical Cleanup
It was intended to clean up the air, but it became a pollutant to our water. "MTBE" may not register much recognition among the average American, but the implications are cause for alarm. In the early '90s, the government approved the use of MTBE (methyl butyl ethers) as a fuel additive to help clean up the air. Soon after, however, it was discovered that the chemical was actually doing more harm than good. Thousands of drinking water supplies in communities across the nation were contaminated by MTBE.
MTBE gives water a foul odor and a bitter taste, rendering it undrinkable and the EPA has MTBE listed as a potential carcinogen.
Last year, a San Francisco jury found MTBE defective, and ruled that at least two major oil companies were aware of its dangers but withheld what they knew when they put it on the market.
Even though 17 states have since banned MTBE, next week the U.S. Senate will consider legislation giving liability immunity to the petroleum industry, forcing local communities across America to clean up the pollution - at a price tag of more than $29 billion dollars.
Water utilities say that sparing the oil companies the cost of cleanup will force the financial burden on consumers, who will end up paying for new water systems through higher taxes and fees.