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NRDC Supports EPA's Action on Gasoline Additive MTBE Statement by NRDC Air and Energy Program Director David Hawkins

WASHINGTON (March 20, 2000) The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) supports the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture's recommendations to Congress that would eliminate or reduce the use of the fuel additive MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) and replace it with safer alternatives. MTBE, a reformulated gasoline additive used to help prevent air pollution, has been leaking from underground storage tanks and contaminating groundwater across the country.

NRDC did offer a caveat, however. "It is critically important that in phasing out the use of MTBE that we maintain the air quality benefits achieved with reformulated gasoline under the Clean Air Act," says David Hawkins, director of the group's air and energy program.

"MTBE helped clear the air, but it has contaminated 5 to 10 percent of the drinking water supplies in areas using reformulated gasoline," he points out. "We need to protect air quality and our groundwater and we can do both.

"Replacing the Clean Air Act's mandate for oxygenates such as MTBE, which reduce the amount of fuel that vaporizes into the air, with a requirement for renewable resources such as ethanol is a step in the right direction but only if air and water quality are taken into consideration."

The Clean Air Act requires that reformulated gasoline contains 2 percent oxygen by weight. Approximately of 85 percent of reformulated gasoline uses the oxygenate MTBE; only 8 percent contains ethanol.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 400,000 members nationwide, served by offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. More information on NRDC is available at its Web site, www.nrdc.org.

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