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MTBE ban debated in the house

March 4, 2002
By: Justin Herndon
State Capital Bureau

A House Subcommittee cleared up details on what some members say will be the biggest bill passed this year.

Justin Herndon has the story.

OutCue: SOC

The Environment and Energy Subcommittee tried to set a date for oil companies to stop using the gasoline additive MTBE.

The EPA originally started use of MTBE two decades ago.

Now, the EPA's website says MTBE could leak out and be a hazard in drinking water if used in underground storage tanks.

Representative John Griesheimer said the EPA identified a potential problem with Missouri's water but it has done nothing to fix it.

Actuality: uptoMO.wav
RunTime: 22
OutCue: to be contaminated
Contents: "by trying to solve one problem the EPA created another. By having MTBE in gasoline they've made water undrinkable. Its up to Missouri to fix it and not allow our water to be contaminated.

Members say they fear if a tank ruptured, Missourians could be at risk.

The EPA is considering federal legislation that would set a national standard but neighboring states are already taking action.

Iowa already banned MTBE and Illnois will ban it in July 20-04.

The main issue is not if, but when the gas companies should began using ethanol instead of MTBE to prevent the problem.

Most subcommittee members want the ban to start January 1, 20-04 but others fear the oil companies won't be ready until that July.

Diane Miller of the Missouri Oil Council said Missouri's transtition can happen soon.

Actuality: oil.wav
RunTime: 12
OutCue: meet that date
Contents: "We're confident our companies can comply with the July 2004 mandate. If the General Assembly wants it by that date we can do it.

The transition will make ethanol the primary gasoline additive.

And the bill's sponsor Representative Maurice Lawson of St. Joseph, says there are added benefits to making the switch.

Actuality: rural.wav
RunTime: 16
OutCue: foreign oil away
Contents: "Ethanol is very important to our rural communitites as an economic tool and it also helps family farms and ends most of our dependence on foreign oil."

He said he's wanted to get this legislation in the works since 1996.

Lawson says oil companies are ready to comply, and he's optimistic this version will get the governor's signature.

Representative Griesheimer agrees on the need to pass the bill this session and said it could help Missouri more than any other bill.

Actuality: BIG.wav
RunTime: 23
OutCue: ground water in the state
Contents: "this could be the biggest piece of legislation passed...there doesn't seem to be much getting passed this year but this would tell the citizens we do care about them."

Once the bill goes back to the Energy and Environment Committee, members would bring it before the full house for approval.

Justin Herndon, Jefferson City.