Military-Vehicles: [MV] FYI:California smog law and fuel additive update .......
[MV] FYI:California smog law and fuel additive update .......
Mon, 13 Oct 97 12:59:45 PST
Good news for California MV owners if your vehical was born before
State Health Study Of Gas Additive
Wilson orders risk assessment
Greg Lucas, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Governor Pete Wilson ordered the state yesterday to conduct
a study of the health risks of methyl
tertiary butyl ether, which could lead to a ban of the
controversial gasoline additive used in
California since 1992.
Wilson's signature on a bill requiring the University of
California to conduct a study of the additive,
known as MTBE, caps calls for better answers on the possible
health risks of the additive, which is
being belched into California's air and is leaking into the
state's water supply.
``Everywhere there are cars or gasoline, people and water
are exposed to MTBE,'' said state
Senator Dick Mountjoy, R-Monrovia, author of the bill
ordering the study. ``It's outrageous that
Californians are experimental guinea pigs.''
Wilson went even further, ordering the state to create a
list of alternatives to MTBE and to increase
efforts for preventing the additive from ending up in
The GOP governor also signed a package of bills to ease some
of the requirements of the state
Smog Check II program. Cars less than five years old and
those older than 25 will be exempted.
The state also will create a fund to help low-income
motorists defray the costs of required repairs.
MTBE is a colorless, flammable liquid that smells like
turpentine. Critics claim it is a possible
Wilson said Mountjoy's bill was necessary because the
federal government ``failed to perform an
extensive evaluation'' of the additive before approving its
use. He did not note that when the
California Air Resources Board studied the effectiveness and
potential dangers of MTBE, the issue
of how it reacts in water was not considered.
California has discovered the hard way how the additive
reacts: It dissolves easily and does not
biodegrade, which means it is hard to clean up.
Last year, Santa Monica shut down half of its water wells
after the chemical showed up in
concentrations many times higher than the government's
recommended safety level. The
contamination was traced to underground leaks from some gas
Mountjoy said a study by a UC Davis professor found MTBE
present in Lake Tahoe, Donner
Lake, Lake Merced, Lake Shasta and other lakes and
reservoirs around the state.
ADDITIVE ADDED IN 1992
In 1992, oil companies began blending MTBE, a byproduct of
refining gasoline, to comply with
orders from the federal government to create cleaner-burning
fuel. MTBE is an ``oxygenate'' -- a
chemical that adds oxygen to gas to help it burn more
completely, which reduce air emissions.
But when Congress ordered the use of oxygenates in 1990, it
had not studied their effect on human
The danger of MTBE to people and the environment is still
not known, although some blame
exposure to it for breathing difficulties, headaches,
nausea, rashes, nosebleeds, eye irritation and
Wilson signed four bills all with the goal of evaluating the
safety of the additive. All were backed by
the oil industry.
``We supported all those bills to allay any consumer
concerns over the safety of MTBE,'' said Lynn
Hogan, a lobbyist for Atlantic Richfield Co. in Sacramento.
Wilson also ordered the state Energy Commission to study
possible gasoline additives that could be
used instead of MTBE.
To avoid further water contamination, Wilson ordered the
state Water Resources Control Board to
examine every underground storage tank that meets the
state's new safety standards and make sure
He also demanded a review of pumps at marinas situated on
bodies of water that also serve as
sources for drinking water to see whether further
precautions are necessary to prevent MTBE from
leaking into the water.
Here's what the MTBE bills do:
-- Give the University of California $500,000 to complete a
study by January 1999 on the health
and environmental risks of MTBE. If the study determines
that there is a health problem, the
governor is ordered to take appropriate action, including
banning MTBE. Wilson will no longer be
governor in 1999.
-- Require the state to adopt drinking water standards for
MTBE. That requirement was imposed
by two bills, one carried by state Senator Tom Hayden; the
other by Assemblywoman Sheila
Kuehl. Both are Democrats who represent Santa Monica.
-- Prohibit delivery of petroleum products to underground
storage tanks that do not meet state and
federal safety standards. Assemblyman Jim Cuneen, R-San
Jose, was the bill's author.
The GOP governor also signed three bills with the goal of
easing the state's much maligned Smog
Check II program, which is unpopular with some car owners
because there is no limit to the cost of
repairs required to make a ``gross polluting vehicle''
comply with clean-air standards.
Gross polluters are cars that emit more than two times the
allowable amount of pollutants for that
model and year. Here's how Smog Check II will change,
beginning Jan. 1, 1998:
-- New cars will be exempted for their first four years.
-- Cars older than 1974 no longer will be inspected. Now,
only models older than 1966 are free of
inspection. Beginning in 2003, vehicles that are 30 or more
years old will be exempt.
-- Repair bills for low-income motorists will be capped at
$250. The state will defray some of the
costs of those repairs by imposing a $300 smog impact fee on
out-of- state cars and a $4 fee on
new cars exempted from inspections.
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