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OCTOBER 14, 2003
12:01 PM
CONTACT:  Essential Action
Emily Figdor (202) 546-9707
Mark Wittink (202) 387-8034
Broad Based Environmental and Citizen Coalition Opposes National Bailout for MTBE Manufacturers, Urges Senate Leadership to Protect Taxpayers and Water Ratepayers; Key MTBE Provision of Energy Bill Would Shield Oil Companies from Massive Cleanup Costs
WASHINGTON - October 14 - A broad coalition of 27 national health, environment, science, citizen, taxpayer, and technology organizations today urged Senate and Leadership to oppose a corporate bailout for manufacturers of MTBE, a toxic gasoline additive that has polluted drinking water supplies in every state of the nation.

The American Lung Association, The Sierra Club, The Center for Health, Environment and Justice, Consumer Federation of American and others have collectively expressed dismay and concern that Congress is set to put the narrow interests of big oil and chemical companies above the health and financial concerns of average American citizens; saddling taxpayers, ratepayers and local municipalities with the cost of toxic cleanup.

Emily Figdor, Clean Air Advocate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said, "After knowingly polluting drinking water across the country with toxic MTBE, big oil and chemical companies want to add insult to injury by leaving taxpayers to pay billions in cleanup costs." A recent Zogby poll showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe polluters should pay for the cleanup of MTBE contaminated sites. This coalition urges Congress to act in the best interest of its constituents, not the polluters.

The nationwide cost of MTBE cleanup is estimated at about $30 billion and rising. The coalition warns that MTBE manufacturers want average Americans to pay for the necessary environmental remediation of toxic sites, and that Congress must not immunize oil and chemical companies from cleaning up MTBE pollution hazards that stretch from coast to coast.

Mark Wittink, Director of the Resource Conservation Alliance, said, "It is outrageous that Executive and Congressional leadership have justified expeditious deliberation of the energy bill with the purported purpose of providing relief for U.S. consumers, while seizing the opportunity to add such corporate bailouts." "To financially absolve MTBE polluters would hamper efforts to ensure that America's drinking water is clean, and would saddle average American taxpayers with the immense cost of cleaning up pollution created by oil and chemical companies," he added.

According to Wittink, "The provision would, through federal legislation, preclude legal decisions that MTBE is defective in design and manufacture." It comes as no surprise that oil and chemical companies are seeking to escape this liability because courts in New York and California have already found that MTBE is in fact defective in design and manufacture.

The MTBE provision would also signal a damaging rollback of laws requiring polluters, not taxpayers, to clean up the toxic mess they make. "Protecting MTBE special interests from clean up liability lawsuits would undermine national "polluter pays" policy that Congress adopted more than 20 years ago," said Wittink. This provision strips from judges and juries the decision of how a toxic site should be remediated. It legislatively preempts what the court system was designed to decide.

The groups signing this letter include:

American Lung Association

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)

Center for Auto Safety

Center for Food Safety

Center for Health, Environment and Justice

Center for Justice and Democracy

Clean Water Action Project

Consumer Federation of America

Consumers Union

Defenders of Wildlife

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund

Environmental & Energy Study Institute

Environmental Defense

Environmental Working Group

Essential Information

Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights

Friends of the Earth


International Center for Technology Assessment

League of Conservation Voters

Natural Resources Defense Council

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Public Citizen

Resource Conservation Alliance

Sierra Club

Union of Concerned Scientists

U.S. Public Interest Research Group


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