SACRAMENTO CA -- March 22, 2002 -- California Governor Gray Davis has announced a delay in banning Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive suspected of causing cancer (Executive Order D-53-02). Originally scheduled to be phased out from state gasoline supplies by the end of this year, MTBE will now be legal until January 1, 2004.
Environmental groups and the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), an organization representing 440 public water agencies, have criticized the Governor's decision because MTBE easily migrates from gasoline storage tanks into groundwater. ACWA notes that MTBE has recently caused the closure of dozens of drinking water wells throughout California, with severe contamination in South Lake Tahoe, Santa Monica, San Jose, Sacramento, Cambria, and Kern County.
MTBE Can Cause Serious Health Problems
Exposure to MTBE occurs by inhalation or absorption as well as by ingestion. The substance causes headaches, coughs, nasal and eye irritation, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and disorientation. The Environmental Protection Agency lists it as a potential human carcinogen.
California uses MTBE to meet a federal requirement that gasoline contain a 2 percent oxygen additive to cut down on air pollution. When MTBE is phased out, California will most likely meet these requirements by substituting ethanol as a gasoline additive. The state would have to import much of its ethanol each year, an expensive proposition. Efforts to get a federal waiver of the oxygenate requirement for California have been unsuccessful so far.
One of the largest plaintiff law firms in the West, Brayton Purcell is currently involved in a suit concerning MTBE contamination in a mobile home park. If you have been exposed to MTBE and are concerned about your legal rights, please feel free to contact us.