Drinking water concerns may lead to ban on gasoline additive

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(Host) The Vermont House has given preliminary approval to legislation that will ban the use of the gasoline additive MTBE in two years. The Vermont Petroleum Association supports the plan and says the bill shouldn’t cause any gasoline supply problems in the future.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Originally designed to help produce cleaner air and boost octane levels, MTBE has become a significant environmental problem associated with the contamination of drinking water supplies. That’s because the additive is more soluble than other elements of gasoline and as a result, it travels faster and farther when a leak occurs. MTBE has been linked to the contamination of over 300 water wells in the state.

Under the bill, Vermont will join with Maine and New Hampshire in banning the use of gasoline with MTBE after January 1, 2007. Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee Chairman Steve Adams urged House members to pass the bill:

(Adams) “So we’re faced with an unusual paradox: while it helps gasoline burn cleaner, it often leaks into groundwater from storage tanks and accidental spills, where it easily dissolves, is hard to remove and becomes potentially cancer causing.”

(Kinzel) Joe Choquette represents the Vermont Petroleum Association. He says the ban shouldn’t affect the supply of gasoline that’s available in the state in the future:

(Choquette) “We think as long as the termination date is the same as the surrounding states – and notably Maine and New Hampshire, which are in the same supply line as we are – that refineries will be able to do this without adverse consequences for the state of Vermont.”

(Kinzel) The measure will come up for final approval in the House on Thursday afternoon. It will then go to the Senate for its consideration.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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