08.02.06

New Schumer Survey Reveals Scores Of Previously Undisclosed MTBE Leaks Located In Capital Region Pose Grave Danger To Public Health

Schumer Releases New Capital Region Map Of 175 MTBE Spills In Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady CountiesSchumer Vows To Block Energy Bill Currently Just Passed By House If MTBE Giveaway to Large Oil Corporations Is Not Removed

Standing at the site of one potentially cancercausing MTBE spill like the dozens that threaten the environment and public health in the Capital Region, Senator Charles E. Schumer released a new list of MTBE hotspots. The previously undisclosed list of MTBE spills in the Capital Region identifies threats to residential homes, commercial properties, water supply wells, and the Hudson River. If a specific special interest provision included in the Energy Bill passed by the House is not removed, the enormous cleanup costs will be incurred by consumers. Schumer on Thursday will announce his intention to filibuster the Energy bill if the MTBE provision is not removed.

This may be the single worst specialinterest giveaway to polluters that I have ever seen in more than 20 years in Washington." Schumer said. "It is shocking that New Yorks drinking water is threatened by leaks and spills that haven't been cleaned up for more than 20 years and, adding insult to injury, consumers will have to foot the bill. This underscores why the Energy Bill has no business being passed if these provisions are included. The idea that we should let the companies whose product literally poisoned our groundwater get away free and instead force innocent New Yorkers to pay for the cleanup is so audacious that words fail to describe it. When my kids were four years old they knew that if you make a mess, you clean it up. If the people who introduced poison into our wells and aquifers think that they can getaway without a fight, they have another thing coming.

The map exposed by Schumer today, include some of the capital regions most potentially dangerous MTBE hotspots. Schumer described a spill that was found at a former Mobil Station on Wolf Road that still doesnt meet standards nearly 20 years after first being reported. A full map of the other MTBE hotspots is attached.

The socalled "Safe Harbor" provision in the Energy bill which has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives would make taxpayers in New York, and those all over the country pay the entire cost to clean up the methyl tertiarybutyl ether, which is better known as MTBE. MTBE is a potentially cancercausing chemical that was first added to gasoline in the 1970's and has been in widespread use since the 1990's. When gasoline containing MTBE was spilled or leaked out of underground storage tanks, it poisoned underground water systems, including 175 sites in the Capital Region.

The "Safe Harbor" provision would prevent petroleum companies from having to pay a cent to clean up the damage their toxic product created by making a blanket declaration that no chemical that gets added to gasoline as part of the energy bill's ethanol mandate, or MTBE can ever be considered a "defective product" in a court of law, even if the chemical is a possible carcinogen.

MTBE came into wide use around 1979. MTBE became even more widespread after changes to the Clean Air Act in 1990 required that reformulated gasoline containing an oxygenate be sold in areas like New York with poor air quality. When MTBE leaks out of an underground storage tanks and into an underground drinking water system like the one under the surface of Capital Region, the poison does not break down, moves through the water quickly, and makes the water smell and taste like turpentine. While the nonpartisan US General Accounting Office has detected MTBE in groundwater and drinking water in every state in the US, the problem is particularly acute in New York. In New York State alone there are 2,727 MTBE spills, including 89 spills in Albany County, 44 in Rensselaer County, and 42 in Schenectady County.

Oil and gas lobbyists got the socalled "Safe Harbor" provision added into the US House version of the Energy bill expressly to prevent court decisions that would hold oil companies liable for MTBE poisoning. In 2002, a Lake Tahoe, California jury found "clear and convincing evidence" that three major oil companies acted "with malice" and were liable for polluting ground water with MTBE. During the case, plaintiffs uncovered internal industry documents showing companies had known for years about the dangers of MTBE while they still were promoting its use. The House of Representatives recently passed its version of the Energy Bill, which included the "safe harbor" provision.

"MTBE is a poison that threatens the environment and public health in the Capital Region, Schumer said. No twoparagraph statement in a piece of legislation is going to change that truth, and I'm not going to let Big Oil push these cleanup costs onto New York homeowners without a fight."



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