30 April 2001 21:36 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (CNI)--The US ethanol industry is urging New Hampshire to rethink its proposed ban on MTBE and the state's request for a federal waiver of the Clean Air Act (CAA) 2% oxygenate rule, CNI learned Monday.
In a letter to New Hampshire governor Jeanne Shaheen, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Eric Vaughn said: "While we understand and appreciate your strong desire to address the public health threat caused by the use of MTBE in New Hampshire, I must respectfully tell you that your executive order misses the mark."
"Simply repealing the requirement for refiners to add oxygenates to reformulated gasoline (RFG) sold in the state will neither assure reduced MTBE use nor protect drinking water supplies. But it may forfeit the significant air quality protections provided by fuel oxygenates, such as ethanol," Vaughn added.
Shaheen has asked the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for an early withdrawal from the RFG program, citing concerns that MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) is contaminating groundwater and surface water throughout the state.
"New Hampshire is particularly frustrated with existing federal barriers that prevent states from readily and effectively reducing or phasing out the use of MTBE in gasoline," Shaheen wrote in a letter to EPA earlier this month.
Under the RFG program, states are committed to comply with the existing regulations - including the requirement that gasoline contain at least 2% oxygen - until 1 January, 2004. Shaheen is requesting that New Hampshire be allowed to opt out of the program early.
However, the RFA contends that refiners are adding MTBE to gasoline sold in New Hampshire for reasons beyond the Clean Air Act.
The group points out that New Hampshire's Department of Environmental Services has found MTBE in gasoline sold throughout the state - not just in the four counties required to utilise oxygenates as part of the RFG program. Moreover, RFA says the department found MTBE at levels exceeding those required to meet RFG standards.
"Thus, simply repealing the RFG oxygen requirement, without a parallel prohibition on the use of MTBE, will not keep refiners from using this fuel additive and will not protect New Hampshire's drinking water," Vaughn said in his letter.
"While it is true federal law pre-empts states from regulating fuel additives like MTBE on the basis of air quality, there is no legal barrier to a state taking whatever action it deems necessary to protect precious water resources," he added. "States most assuredly have the authority, indeed the responsibility, to protect their citizens from drinking polluted water."
The RFA estimates that it would take 96 000 tonne of ethanol/year to satisfy New Hampshire's RFG oxygen requirements. With production expected to hit 6m tonne this year, the ethanol industry says it could easily meet the state's oxygenate demand.
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