June 06, 2020

Legislator proposes bill to ban gasoline additive

BRUNSWICK — As state environmental officials explore alternatives to MTBE, a legislator has offered a bill to ban the use of the controversial gasoline additive.

Rep. Verdi Tripp, D-Topsham, said he is confident that Gov. Angus King will keep his word and eliminate methyl tertiary-butyl ethyl, making his bill unnecessary.

The Department of Environmental Protection has scheduled a public hearing in Augusta on Wednesday to discuss alternatives to the additive that reduces exhaust emissions that cause air pollution.

Tripp, an MTBE opponent, said he prepared his legislation as a backup in case the DEP fails to act.

“I put in a bill to eliminate MTBE from the state of Maine,” said Tripp, “just in case the DEP and the governor decide that they will not get rid of MTBE.”

Last October, King outlined plans to reduce the concentration of MTBE added to the state’s fuel and to seek a less toxic additive by summer. His decision came after the DEP, the Maine Bureau of Health and other state agencies tested 1,000 public and private wells statewide for the presence of the chemical.

More than 1 percent of the wells tested from Cumberland County to Aroostook County were found to contain higher levels of MTBE than the state’s 35-parts- per-billion threshold.

Because it is easily absorbed by water, small quantities of MTBE, which leak into the state’s groundwater aquifers, can cause major contamination problems.

Along with Tripp’s bill to eliminate use of MTBE in Maine is a companion measure to replace reformulated gasoline with a low-sulfur substitute.

Tripp said an increase of 3 to 5 cents per gallon of gasoline would be a reasonable price to pay for the elimination of MTBE, especially when one considers contamination of water supplies.

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