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EPA Falls Short on MTBE Announcement

EPA's recent announcement to phase out MTBE from the nation's gasoline and boost the use of safe alternatives is drawing some criticism.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) announcement to phase out the gasoline additive MTBE from the nation's gasoline and boost the use of safe alternatives is drawing some criticism.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Bliley, R-Va., made a statement following EPA's announcement saying its action "falls a mile short."

"EPA's failure to act for many years regarding MTBE and the reformulated gasoline program has been part of the problem, not part of the solution," said Bliley. "With all the attorneys and other resources at EPA, I am disappointed that the best Administrator Browner can do is present the American public with only a vague half-page proposal that offers no solutions to this debate on clean air."

Organizations like the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and its 300,000 farmer members said it welcomed EPA's proposal to eliminate MTBE, but the Clinton Administration is only half-way there on addressing the problem.

NCGA has long-maintained that ethanol is the right alternative to MTBE, providing the clean air benefits of an oxygenate without the negative environmental and health effects of petroleum based MTBE.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that ethanol could successfully replace MTBE in meeting the nation's oxygenate demands by 2004.

"Replacing MTBE with ethanol is the right thing to do. But, at this point in time, eliminating the oxygenate requirement is extremely risky, both politically and environmentally," according to a NCGA statement.

NCGA is concerned because the administration proposes replacing the oxygenate requirement with a renewable fuel standard for all gasoline.

While it the organization feels this is a laudable goal, it is worried that Congress will not agree with the concept.

Therefore, NCGA is hesitant to abandon the oxygenate requirement because it is a proven successful approach that's already on the books.

As an alternative, NCGA is supports another legislative solution, such as that taken in H.R. 4011, the Clean Air and Water Preservation Act.

This bill, introduced last week by Reps. Greg Ganske, R-Iowa and John Shimkus, R-Ill., bans MTBE but maintains the oxygenate requirement and gives refiners flexibility in producing reformulated gasoline.

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