No 'Free Pass' for MTBE Polluters in National Energy Bill

ACWA Executive Director Speaks Out Against 'Safe Harbor'

On January 20, President Bush will address the nation with his State of the Union. The status of the national Energy Bill is likely to be included in those remarks. The energy bill contains a highly controversial provision to grant MTBE manufacturers "safe harbor" from liability. MTBE has contaminated water supply sources throughout the country. The safe harbor provision is the leading issue keeping the energy bill from passage.

California water agencies are calling on President Bush to send the strong message that Congress must remove a controversial provision from the pending national energy bill that protects gasoline manufacturers who produce MTBE. Inclusion of this safe harbor language has stalled the bill's passage in the U.S. Senate.

"ACWA is part of a national coalition of cities, counties, mayors and water suppliers opposing the provision because of the horrendous costs that will be borne by the public to deal with MTBE contamination. The public should not be expected to use public dollars to clean up a corporate mess, " ACWA Executive Director Steve Hall said.

The cost to Americans for MTBE cleanup will be huge, with estimates ranging from $30 billion to $100 billion. The energy bill would essentially deliver a free pass to the oil companies that created the problem.

"The well-being of our most precious resource -- water -- is at risk if the safe harbor language remains," Hall said. "Regardless of what side of the aisle or country you're on, everyone can acknowledge that MTBE pollutes water supplies. That said, granting a safe harbor to those responsible is the last thing we need."

This fall, senators from both parties have indicated repeatedly that removing the safe harbor from the bill would result in the bill's passage. ACWA members point to the many MTBE lawsuits pending nationwide as evidence of the need to preserve water districts' ability to recover the cleanup costs and replacement water costs that would otherwise be forced upon local ratepayers by the parties responsible for marketing MTBE.

"The safe harbor provision forces President Bush to choose between oil company profits or community water supplies. We urge him to make the right choice," Hall said.

ACWA is a statewide non-profit organization whose 447 public agency members are collectively responsible for 90 percent of the water delivered in California for residential and agricultural use.

Association of California Water Agencies

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