Legislation that would ban the gasoline additive MTBE is headed to the Pennsylvania State Senate. Lawmakers in the state House voted 196-0 last month to approve the plan to ban the sale or distribution of MTBE in the state starting in January 2005.

In Bucks County, private wells serving residences have been contaminated by MTBE, reported The Morning Call.

A Pennsylvania representative recently chaired a congressional hearing on MTBE. He also is sponsoring legislation that would allow states to seek waivers from the federal oxygen mandate. States would still be required to comply with environmental and performance standards of the reformulated gasoline programs. The bill also would give the EPA greater authority to control or prohibit MTBE or other additives.

John Hanger, a spokesman for the environmental group PennFuture, said the legislation is a good start, and that state officials should seriously consider using the corn-based additive known as ethanol. Although ethanol is primarily used in the Midwest, the industry has begun expanding production to break into the East Coast and West Coast markets.