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[oletrucks] Gasoline update--long form

To: oletrucks@autox.team.net
Subject: [oletrucks] Gasoline update--long form
From: Advdesign1@aol.com
Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000 06:26:02 EDT
this is Stella's letter for May Hemmings.
Bob Adler

“MTBE, Ethanol and Tax Dollars”  May 2000

    In March 1999, California Governor Gray Davis announced a phase out
of MTBE (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether) by January 1, 2003. Then on
January 16, 2000, CBS’s “60 Minutes” broadcast a double-segment on MTBE,
and March 21, EPA Administrator Carol Browner urged Congress to amend
the Clean Air Act to significantly reduce or eliminate the use of MTBE
in gasoline, encouraging ethanol use. As a backstop, the EPA announced
it is seeking to eliminate MTBE through regulation under the federal
Toxic Substances Control Act. This lengthy regulatory process may take
longer than two or three years. The EPA did not, however, announce the
immediate removal of MTBE. It has also been reported the EPA has delayed
acting on California's request for a waiver of the additive requirement.

The Great Debate

    EPA’s announcement, encouraging ethanol use, has proponents jumping
on the bandwagon. New Jersey farmers, sources say, were discussing
converting some of their corn into ethanol, while also selling the
byproducts i.e. feed grain and carbon dioxide. But, I am confused… what
is meant by “selling carbon dioxide?”
    Peter Furey, executive director of the New Jersey Farm Bureau,
cautioned that the hopes of the industry were contingent upon federal
action banning MTBE, requiring a replacement, leaving ethanol "the only
game in town." But cutting to the core, one of the farmers mentioned the
risk. For two years, New Jersey has had a drought.
    In Nebraska, what started as an ethanol mandate evolved into a ban
of MTBE. The mandate, which would have helped rural Nebraska most,
didn't survive because it didn't get rural support. Another version will
be introduced next year, but if Iowa requires the sale of ethanol,
supporters may come back with a Nebraska mandate. Another issue to be
tackled is pricing. Retailers have priced gasohol above regular gasoline
even when wholesale costs would have let them drop the price.
Interesting though is taxpayers subsidize 54 cents on every gallon sold
and reports say the subsidy comes from Federal Highway Funds.
    Gas refiners, supporting the elimination of MTBE from the fuel
supply, are not jumping on ethanol's bandwagon. 400 lobbyists for the
oil industry in Washington say “we want flexibility.” And carmakers are
reportedly concerned about EPA’s plan to require ethanol in gasoline
because of its corrosive effect on fuel systems and because it increases
gasoline volatility.  Variations in volatility make meeting emissions
standards more difficult.
    Newspaper editorials were not so kind. “USA Today” on March 23
wrote: “In touting ethanol, EPA puts politics ahead of science... The
EPA appears to be repeating the mistakes that got it into trouble with
MTBE. Though ethanol is already used in some areas… widespread use has
potential downsides to the air and public health. Among them:
    * A report out last summer from the government-funded National
Research Council found that ethanol actually could ''be detrimental to
air quality'' by boosting emissions of smog-forming chemicals.”
    * A recent report from the Northeastern region's clean air board,
called NESCAUM, warned that ''ethanol should not be used in the summer
ozone season'' until concerns about its smog-boosting potential are
Even ethanol's ability to battle carbon monoxide and other toxic
emissions is overstated. Gasoline refined to burn cleaner can do that
without an additive. California, in fact, plans to require such gasoline
in a couple of years.”
    * A September report from the EPA's own blue ribbon panel on fuel
additives noted ethanol use increases emissions of acetaldehyde. Levels
of that toxin, which EPA says is a probable human carcinogen, are
already well above health-based risk standards in the Northeast. What's
more, little is known about the health effects of long-term exposure to
ethanol. By pushing ethanol in place of MTBE, the EPA might find it has
traded one health problem for another. … The way EPA tells it, requiring
ethanol is a win-win solution. It would create jobs in rural America
while it cleaned the air of pollutants.”
    An editorial in the March 27 issue of the “San Jose Mercury News”
said: “[The] corn belt is priming the ethanol gas pump… With MTBE on its
way out, ethanol producers and Midwest politicians are salivating at the
prospect of requiring California to drive on gas blended with ethanol,
made from corn. Their lobbying has sustained federal subsidies for
ethanol since 1978. They want more. Congress should have none of it…
California is asking the EPA for a waiver from the oxygenate
requirement… Give California a waiver. The waiver should be granted. The
Clean Air Act is not Farm Aid.”

Contamination Continues

    As the debate goes on, many reports of MTBE contamination continue.
One story stands out: Workers in Wagner, Texas raced to contain a huge
gas spill that spread down a creek toward Lake Tawakoni, threatening a
drinking water supply for Dallas and other cities. The 24-inch broken
pipeline spilled 500,000-gallons of MTBE-laden gasoline. Downpours
filled the creek beyond its banks. Ten miles downstream a heavy odor of
gasoline filled the air. Salvage workers had another problem -
lightning. A strike near the creek could have killed workers and started
a pipeline blaze. A few days later, MTBE was found in Lake Tawakoni. The
Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) estimates that
drinking water containing levels as high as 240 ppb of MTBE over a
lifetime would have no adverse health effects. The next day, the TNRCC
arranged to have potable water trucked in. Four days later, Dallas
boosted water restrictions and indefinitely closed the lake.
    Sources have nicknamed MTBE “the Houdini of gas additives” because
of its ability to escape from tanks and  spread through the ground to
contaminate water supplies. Sadly, more cities have been added to the
list of MTBE contamination: Gorham (Oakland County), Michigan; Beaver
Lake, Arkansas; New Palz, (Rifton), New York; Kankakee, East Alton, and
Island Lake, Illinois; Hudson County, New York; Cranberry Lake and Lake
Hopatcong, New Jersey; Casper, Wyoming; Missoula, (Ronan) Montana. In
the southwest corner of Wisconsin, there's a 4,500-foot plume containing

Who Pays For The Cleanup?

    As CAPP has looked over hundreds of documents this month, something
became clearer. Leaking gasoline has contaminated thousands of
locations. It takes expensive machinery to (hopefully) suck gasoline
back out of the soil. In 1995 in Ronan, Montana, a gas station
underground storage tank leaked thousands of gallons of gasoline with
MTBE. Reportedly, only three thousand gallons have been recaptured. The
state picked up the $400,000 clean up bill because the station’s owner
can’t afford it. Trees will also be planted along the creek to absorb
any possible remnants of MTBE.
    The Arizona state legislature wants a penny a gallon gas tax hike to
clean up leaking underground gas tanks. There's already a one-cent tax
that raises $24- to $28-million a year for the cleanup fund, but the
fund is still short $78 million. Taxpayers have been paying for
clean-ups for 10 years, but there's just not enough money to take care
of all the 3,500 leaking tanks.
    A machine designed to suck gasoline vapors up has fallen short of
expectations. A 600-gallon gas spill in the soil at the Coppermine Lodge
in Beaver Lake, Arkansas only pulled 4-1/3 gallons from the soil after
seven hours. Five wells are contaminated and two homeowners have been
told their contaminated wells may never be usable again. Future plans
include the drilling of ten dry wells into the layer of rock between the
soil and the water table. Machines will attempt to pull gasoline vapors
from the rock layer. A pilot well will be drilled 100 feet in an area
clear of the contamination area to sample the water table. Then ten
cased wells, which have a lining to separate them from the rock, will be
drilled on or around the lodge site to monitor the ground water and to
map the contamination.
    Cost for the cleanup will be paid in part by the Petroleum Storage
Tank Trust Fund. The fund pays for the cost of cleanup and reparation
for gasoline spills in some instances. The lodge owner will be
reimbursed by the fund for certain approved expenses from the study of
the spill and the cleanup efforts. After a $7,500 deductible, the fund
may pay up to one million dollars for corrective action and abatement
due to a gasoline spill. The money in the trust comes from a two-tenths
of a cent tax on the wholesale price of gasoline and diesel. Ultimately
the taxpayers are footing the bill for this cleanup.
    Mail can also yield some amazing facts. The first three paragraphs
of a full page report from the November 15, 1999 “Oil Express
Newsletter” had a special report from SIGMA. “Milk state tank funds
before they run dry – funds will pay for ‘mind-boggling’ items.
Marketers are leaving millions of dollars on the table because they
don’t claim all that they’re entitled to from state tank funds. Most
times, just to keep the process uncomplicated, a marketer will file for
items such as contaminated soil removal, monitoring wells, and
consultants’ fees. Often, other costs they just eat. But tank funds will
pay for a whole lot more, says environmental consultant Stephen Tyree.
For example, if a marketer can produce records to prove his claim, funds
will pay for the tree that was damaged by the excavator, pavement
striping, quarterly testing of monitoring wells and pilot testing of
cleanup equipment. A marketer could even install, at little cost, an
electricity meter on his site and claim utility costs too. Some canny
marketers are even ‘outsourcing’ their own employees – loaning them to
environmental consultants who then put them on their payroll, allowing
the marketer to recoup from the fund not only the wages paid but the
benefits too. ‘When you have a site that’s reimbursable, work it to
death,’ says Tyree.”
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