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NO. R-248.  JOINT RESOLUTION relating to federal policy concerning MTBE.


Offered by: Senator Illuzzi of Essex-Orleans District and Senator Lyons of Chittenden District.

Whereas, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) is a chemical additive that since 1979 has been used as an octane booster in crude oil based motor vehicle fuel, and

Whereas, Public Law 101-549 (the Clean Air Amendments of 1990) established a fuel oxygen standard that resulted in more significant use of MTBE as a motor vehicle fuel oxygenate, and

Whereas, because this chemical is extremely soluble in water, when MTBE leaks from storage tanks, it does not bind readily to soil and therefore can contaminate either groundwater or drinking water at a rapid pace, and

Whereas, the U.S. Congress has determined that use of MTBE as an oxygenate for air quality purposes should be terminated by a date certain, and

Whereas, nevertheless, Congress has failed to set a timely, or even a firm, termination date, but rather has provided in Sec. 1504 of the House-passed version of H.R.6, the National Energy Policy Act of 2005, that national use of MTBE can continue potentially until December 31, 2014, and

Whereas, although section 1504 of H.R.6 does not restrict a state from limiting or prohibiting the use of MTBE in motor fuels within its geographic boundaries, the use of MTBE in states that do not adopt their own bans is allowed until 2014 and that is unacceptable, and

Whereas, section 1502 of H.R.6 creates a fuels safe harbor provision under which MTBE or fuel containing MTBE is not a defective product for purposes of a defective product claim unless it violates a control prohibition imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Clean Air Act § 211, and

Whereas, the Congressional Budget Office anticipates that precluding existing and future MTBE claims would reduce the size of judgments in favor of state and local governments over the next five years, resulting in a cost shift from MTBE producers and big oil companies to the states and local governments in the form of unfunded mandates which the taxpayers will ultimately pay, and

Whereas, in 2003, 14 state attorneys general, including the Attorney General of Vermont, expressed their opposition to the enactment of a safe harbor provision relative to MTBE, such as in section 1502 of H.R.6, and

Whereas, increased reliance on ethanol as a motor fuel replacement for increasingly expensive crude oil and its dangerous MTBE additive has gained new supporters, and

Whereas, this new support is based on ethanol’s declining price, the availability of storage facilities capable of handling ethanol, and the impact ethanol could have on reducing the threat to ground water quality even if serving as a blend with traditional crude oil, and

Whereas, despite these factors, ethanol is still not a major component of motor vehicle fuel sold in the United States, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly urges Congress to reject both sections 1502 and 1504 of H.R.6 as currently proposed, and to examine closely the potential for the use of ethanol as an alternative to either MTBE or crude oil, and be it further

Resolved:  That the Secretary of State be directed to send a copy of this resolution to the members of the Vermont Congressional delegation.

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont