California Gov. Gray Davis recently announced a one-year delay on banning the pollutant MTBE from the state's gasoline supplies, explaining that he wants to avoid price hikes and shortages as the state moves to use ethanol as a substitute. He also blamed the delay on the Bush Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its denial last summer of California's request for a waiver of the federal mandate that an oxygenate - such as MTBE or ethanol - must be added to the state's gasoline.

Davis said that the state's gasoline will be MTBE-free by January 2004. He also said the delay will allow a more orderly transition and protect California drivers from paying as much as $3 a gallon at the pump.

The announcement has been met with criticism from municipal water officials and environmentalist who noted that a study directed by the state continues to find MTBE, a possible carcinogen, leaking into ground water. The Association of California Water Agencies said MTBE has caused the contamination and closure of dozens of drinking water wells throughout the state, affecting the water supply for thousands of Californians.