Energy Bill Will Benefit MTBE Makers

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Energy Bill Will Benefit MTBE Makers

WASHINGTON -- The House and Senate are expected to vote this week on a federal energy bill designed to boost energy production, improve reliability of the electricity grids and make it easier for energy companies to develop oil and gas on federal land, according to the Associated Press.

The bill would benefit manufacturers of the gasoline additive MTBE because congressional negotiators agreed to protect them from product liability lawsuits. MTBE has been found to contaminate drinking water.

The Republican-drafted bill has raised the ire of California's Democratic legislators, who contend that it jeopardizes the environment, subsidizes midwestern states and does little to prevent the type of misconduct that fueled the state's energy crisis, the Associated Press reported.

Resistance is likely in the narrowly divided Senate. California Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer indicated Friday that they oppose various provisions, including one that would shield makers of MTBE from product liability lawsuits.

"It sounds like those who poisoned our water with MTBE will get off scot-free," Boxer said in a statement.

California is phasing out MTBE, and it is supposed to be banned from gasoline in the state starting Jan. 1.

"I think California's hurt more by this legislation than any other state in the country," said Rep. Henry Waxman of Los Angeles, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and ranking Democrat on the Committee on Government Reform.

"It could lead to weakening of our environment in California, it gives special breaks to the energy industries and it's going to cost Californians a lot of money for no purpose," he said, according to the AP report.

Republicans disagree, saying the bill, the first major overhaul of the nation's energy policy in a decade, will increase supply, streamline bureaucracy and encourage the use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biodiesel.

Republicans in the GOP-controlled Congress finished a draft of the bill Friday, setting the stage for near-certain approval in the House, the AP reported.