The movement of MTBE in the environment.
The American Water Works Association (AWWA) and a coalition of mayors, city council members, county officials, town and township leaders, drinking water professionals and public works managers urged Congress to reject the MTBE “safe harbor” provision in the proposed House Energy Bill.

A coalition letter delivered to all members of Congress says “the liability waiver amounts to a massive unfunded mandate on local governments and ratepayers.” The coalition asked legislators to oppose any legislation that includes the measure.

The MTBE safe harbor provision would provide product liability immunity to gasoline manufacturers whose product contained MTBE, an additive that migrates through the ground and makes water undrinkable even in minute amounts. Treatment is expensive and complex, as is finding alternative sources of water for most communities. The estimated contamination cleanup cost is $29 billion.

“Those responsible for creating the MTBE mess ought to help clean it up,” insists Jack Hoffbuhr, executive director of AWWA. “The MTBE safe harbor provision would give blank-check protection to gasoline manufacturers, sticking local utilities and their customers with hefty bills for a problem they didn't create.”

The problem of MTBE contamination is both widespread and growing. To date, 36 states across the nation have found MTBE - methyl tertiary butyl ether - in their water supplies, affecting a population of roughly 41 million Americans. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified MTBE as a possible human carcinogen.

The MTBE provision dominated debate over the Energy Bill last year - ultimately being a key reason for its defeat in the Senate. Legislators from both parties stood in opposition to the measure, sustaining a filibuster.

“The American people deserve fair, effective energy legislation that serves their best interests,” says Hoffbuhr. “We applaud the members of Congress - Democrats and Republicans - who stood against the powerful special interests and instead sided with the concerns of the public.”

A copy of the letter and other MTBE resources can be found on AWWA's Web site: