Trade Association challenges MTBE ban

A trade association has filed a law suit challenging the Californian ban on the fuel oxygenating additive MTBE after the end of 2002.


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The Oxygenated Fuels Association (OFA) is asking the court in Sacramento to invalidate the MTBE ban (see related story), because it is precluded by the federal Clean Air Act. The organisation agrees that there is a problem of the chemical leaking into groundwater (see related story), but points out that the solution lies with mending the state’s leaking underground gasoline storage tanks, combined with proper monitoring. Recent data on areas where tanks have already been upgraded have demonstrated an impressive reduction in MTBE groundwater detections, says OFA.

“Retaining MTBE as an oxygenate will enable California to continue to reap the air quality benefits and cost effectiveness associated with MTBE,” said Tom Adams, President of OFA. “OFA believes that a comprehensive scientific review of updated information, coupled with California’s stringent primary and secondary water standards for MTBE, will show that the ban is unnecessary. We hope the state will recognise our lawsuit as an opportunity to reconsider a policy decision that could, if reversed, allow the state to avoid gasoline price increases that are expected to occur when MTBE becomes unavailable.”

MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether) is an oxygenate added to gasoline to make it burn more cleanly, thus reducing air pollution. According to OFA, the federal Clean Air Act has established uniform requirements for gasoline that pre-empt the ban in California. MTBE, says the organisation, is the most cost-efficient and effective oxygenate on the market today, maintaining fuel quality and performance, extending fuel supplies during peak driving seasons.

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