Jan 16, 2004

AWWA: "MTBE 'Safe Harbor' Pollutes Energy Bill"

On Tuesday, Jan. 20, President Bush will deliver his annual State of the Union address to the nation. He is expected to highlight his legislative goals for 2004, among them the passage of the Energy Bill.

A filibuster in the Senate halted action on the bill in the fall, largely because of a provision that grants gasoline makers defective product liability immunity – so called "safe harbor" – in cases of MTBE water contamination.

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) does not want this bill to pass, and its Executive Director Jack W. Hoffbuhr, P.E., DEE recently released a statement explaining why:

"As President Bush calls on Congress to pass the Energy Bill, it is important that legislators bear in mind the core issues that stalled the bill last fall, particularly the provision that would grant gasoline makers product liability immunity in cases of MTBE contamination in water supplies.

"In the coming days and weeks, powerful special interests will seek to push through the Energy Bill. We applaud the bipartisan coalition of senators who have held firm in their opposition to the MTBE ‘safe harbor’ provision and call upon them, Republicans and Democrats alike, to continue to put the voice of the American people above those of the powerful special interests and partisan politics.

"The safe harbor provision amounts to more than a $29-billion bailout for the oil industry on the backs of local governments, community water systems and, most importantly, the American public. By denying local communities the right to hold water polluters accountable, Congress would be granting the gasoline manufacturers blank-check protection from a problem that same industry created.

"Congress never mandated MTBE. Court documents show that oil companies chose MTBE in part because it was more profitable for them. Now this defective product has contaminated the water supply in 36 states, and the problem continues to grow.

"Oil lobbyists have been working overtime to confuse the issue and draw attention away from their industry’s accountability, but the American public has not been fooled. Lawmakers from both parties and all regions of the country have chosen common sense and justice over cynical politics in opposing MTBE safe harbor. We applaud the courage they have shown and urge them to continue to put the American people first."

As the largest organization of water professionals in the world, AWWA is the authoritative resource for knowledge, information, and advocacy to improve the quality and supply of drinking water worldwide.