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Smith Statement On Environment Committee Hearing On MTBE

TRENTON – Senator Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Environment Committee and a longtime advocate for clean water legislation, issued the following statement regarding yesterday’s Environment Committee hearing on the use of the chemical Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether (MTBE) as an oxygenating additive in US gasoline:

“Today’s hearing on the prevalence and potential environmental hazards of MTBE in our gasoline has demonstrated that the issue is a multifaceted one, and that whichever path we choose, consequences and repercussions may be unavoidable.

It has been shown that high levels of MTBE pollution have been found in our nation’s water supplies, and persists for long periods of time. Additionally, the federal EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has listed MTBE as a potential human carcinogen, but the jury’s still out on the exact effect in humans of MTBE consumption.

“At the same time, banning MTBE outright may have an effect on the cost of gasoline at the pumps, and given the skyrocketing prices of gasoline today, that has to be considered. When the federal government required the gasoline manufacturing industry to meet higher oxygenating standards, MTBE was settled on as the most cost-effective oxygenate.

“Other states have banned MTBE already, such as New York and California, and I imagine that as we proceed, we will take a hard look at the data provided by those states.

“The issue of MTBE pollution is not a quick fix issue, but I look forward to working with advocates on both sides to come to an agreeable solution that spares the gasoline purchasers undue amounts of fiscal pain while at the same time addressing a potentially harmful pollutant in our State’s drinking water.”