AWWA calls for Congressional hearing on Energy Bill MTBE provision

Provision would provide "safe harbor" from product liability suits to gasoline manufacturers whose products contain MTBE, a gasoline additive that migrates through the ground and makes water undrinkable even in minute amounts -- passing estimated $29 billion in cleanup costs on to utilities and consumers. House Energy and Commerce committee agrees to accept written testimony on issue from AWWA and other water and local government organizations...

DENVER, CO, February 16, 2005 -- The American Water Works Association (AWWA) has called upon the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce to conduct a hearing on the MTBE product liability waiver that has been included in draft Energy Policy Act legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. With more than 57,000 members, including 4,700 drinking water utilities across the country, AWWA is uniquely positioned to comment on legislation that will adversely affect water systems and local residents in every corner of the U.S.

During a hearing today on Capitol Hill, the Energy and Commerce committee agreed to accept written testimony on the MTBE issue from AWWA and other water and local government organizations.

The MTBE provision would provide "safe harbor" from product liability suits to gasoline manufacturers whose products contain MTBE, a gasoline additive that migrates through the ground and makes water undrinkable even in minute amounts. MTBE cleanup is expensive and complex, as is finding alternative sources of water for most communities. The estimated contamination cleanup cost now stands at $29 billion.

"Before members of Congress vote on energy legislation, they need to become aware of the damage that the MTBE provision will cause to communities across the country," said AWWA executive director Jack Hoffbuhr. "We believe that when our elected leaders learn of the full scope and severity of the problem, and the unfair burden this provision places on the shoulders of local residents, they will side with the American public instead of those groups that have been working overtime to confuse the issue."

The problem of MTBE contamination is both widespread and growing. To date, 36 states across the nation have found that MTBE, methyl tertiary butyl ether, has contaminated water supplies, affecting a population of roughly 41 million Americans. Health concerns related to MTBE range from headaches and dizziness to burning of the nose and throat, disorientation and nausea. Most alarmingly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified MTBE as a possible human carcinogen.

The MTBE provision dominated debate over the Omnibus Energy Bill last year � and was ultimately a key reason for its defeat in the Senate. The confrontation appears to be starting again as the House is moving to pass an Energy Bill with the provision and the Senate is vowing not to pass an Energy Bill with it included.

Based in Denver, Colo., and with offices in Washington, D.C., AWWA (www.awwa.org) is an authoritative resource for knowledge, information, and advocacy to improve the quality and supply of drinking water in North America and beyond. It's the largest organization of water professionals in the world, advancing public health, safety and welfare by uniting the efforts of the full spectrum of the drinking water community.

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