U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol M. Browner and Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman yesterday announced actions by the Clinton Administration to phase out the gasoline additive MTBE and boost safe alternatives like ethanol.
MTBE is a leading oxygenate and octane booster that reduces smog emissions, but has supposedly contaminated groundwater in California and elsewhere, according to EPA.
Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, EPA may ban chemicals that are proven risky to the environment.
"Threats posed by MTBE to water supplies in many areas of the country are a growing concern," said Browner. "We need to begin now to eliminate MTBE from gasoline ad move to safer alternatives, like ethanol because Americans deserve both clean air and clean water -- and never one at the expense of the other."
The legislative framework being sent to Congress by EPA includes the following three recommendations.
Congress should amend the Clean Air Act to provide the authority to significantly reduce or eliminate the use of MTBE.
As MTBE is reduced or eliminated, Congress must ensure that air quality gains are not diminished.
Congress should replace the existing oxygenate requirements in the Clean Air Act with a renewable fuel standard for all gasoline.
"These principles provide a strong, unified framework for promoting the continued growth of renewable fuels like ethanol," said Glickman. "Ethanol will play an important role in ensuring that we maintain the air quality gains we have achieved to date, and the renewable fuels standard will encourage substantial new growth in the use of ethanol and other renewable fuels."
In addition to the legislative framework, Browner announced that EPA formally began regulatory action to eliminate or phase down MTBE, issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking under Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act gives EPA authority to ban, phase out, limit or control the manufacture of any chemical substance deemed to pose an unreasonable risk to the public or the environment.
EPA expects to issue a full proposal to ban or phase down MTBE within six months, after which more time is required by the law for analysis and public comment before final action can be taken.