Noting that leaders of the 109th Congress who began work last month intend quick action on comprehensive energy legislation that was blocked by a Senate filibuster in the previous session, AWWA has again alerted its member utilities to press federal lawmakers to oppose provisions that would protect MTBE makers from product liability suits.
Spurred by word that Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, plans "fast-track" passage of energy legislation likely to include the same MTBE "safe harbor" language that was in the bill that passed the House but failed in the Senate last session, AWWA urged utility members to call, fax or e-mail lawmakers immediately to express their concerns.
For more information and resources, including an issue backgrounder, contact AWWA Legislative Programs Manager Tommy Holmes at [email protected]  or 202/628-8303.
Also on the MTBE front, Maryland has adopted emergency regulations to prevent MTBE and other petroleum products from reaching groundwater supplies in certain parts of the state. The regulations, unanimously approved by the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review, require more frequent testing for vapors as well as liquid leaks and rigorous safeguards against leaks.
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) said the new measures provide additional assurance that water supplies are clean and safe from MTBE and other petroleum products.
"These are tough, but necessary regulations to protect public health," MDE said.
The emergency regulations require installation of double-walled pipes on all new regulated motor fuel underground storage systems and built-in sensors to warn of leaks. The regulations also require increased groundwater sampling, mandate regular testing of tanks and fittings, and define steps that gas station owners and others must take when underground storage systems are suspected of contaminating groundwater.
The emergency regulations became effective Jan. 26 and will remain active for six months. MDE will publish the regulations in the Maryland Register in the next 30 days and seek to adopt them under the normal regulatory process that includes a public hearing and comment period.