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Congressional Plan to Shield Polluters From Cleanup Costs Will Benefit A Handful of Texas Oil Refiners

For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

WASHINGTON — Millions of consumers and their water utilities in 25 states will be forced to pay billions of dollars to remove a toxic, foul-smelling gasoline additive from drinking water under a plan to prohibit water pollution lawsuits against oil and chemical companies.

But the pollution liability waiver, which House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) and other lawmakers are pressing to include in pending energy legislation, will primarily benefit a handful of large oil refiners in just one state -- Texas -- where 75 percent of the pollutant, known as MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether), was produced last year.

The prospective winners and losers in the MTBE controversy, which is coming to a head this week in Congress, were presented in a new analysis made public today by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The analysis is based on a computer review of water contamination data from the oil industry as well as state and federal sources.

"The liability waiver for MTBE polluters is the last big gusher for the Texas oil industry," said Ken Cook, president of EWG. "This is an industry that knowingly polluted the tap water of millions of Americans. Courts have been finding them liable. So they've gone to high-placed friends in Washington to rig the legal system in their favor—which will save them billions in cleanup costs."

Oil refiners are pressing Congress to prohibit any "defective product" lawsuits filed after Oct. 1 of this year because at least 1,500 communities have already reported MTBE contamination problems, and internal company documents are coming back to haunt the industry in court. EWG has posted internal oil industry documents and court testimony on its website (www.ewg.org) that refute pervasive oil company claims that they were "forced" by EPA air pollution rules to add MTBE to gasoline, and that MTBE producers were unaware of the chemical's extreme propensity to contaminate water supplies.

EWG listed 25 states with the greatest number of water sources that have been polluted by MTBE, which can render water undrinkable at concentrations as low as two parts per billion. The additive is classified as a possible human carcinogen. The listing was based on an analysis of water system contamination data and obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey, which monitors pollution in rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater.

Oil companies have pressured Midwestern legislators — some of whose states have MTBE contamination - to support the MTBE liability waiver in exchange for a new mandate to use corn-based ethanol as a fuel additive.

"A number of Midwestern states already have serious MTBE contamination problems. There's every reason to pursue expansion of ethanol use while still holding MTBE producers liable for the pollution they caused in the Midwest," Cook said. "And, it is doubly unfair to force dozens of states to pay the higher cost of gasoline with ethanol, and also force them to pay for MTBE cleanup instead of Texas oil refiners."

# # #


Winners

Texas oil refineries that produced MTBE in 2002.

MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether) PRODUCER CAPACITY*

Amerada Hess, Port Reading, N.J.

1,700

Belvieu Environmental Fuels, Mont Belvieu, Tex.

14,800

BP, Carson, Calif., Whiting, Ind.; Yorktown, Va.

6,200

ChevronTexaco, El Segundo, Calif.; Pascagoula, Miss.; Richmond, Calif.

6,000

CITGO, Corpus Christi, Tex. (two units); Lake Charles, La.

6,950

Coastal Chem, Cheyenne, Wyo.

4,000

Conoco, Lake Charles, La.; Ponca City, Okla.

2,900

ConocoPhilips, Sweeny, Tex.

3,000

Crown Central Petroleum, Pasadena, Tex.

2,000

EGP Fuels, La. Porte, Tex.

15,000

Equistar Chemicals, Channelview, Tex. (two units); Chocolate Bayou, Tex.

16,300

Exxon, Baton Rouge, La.; Baytown; Tex., Beaumont, Tex.

23,300

Global Octanes, Deer Park, Tex.

12,500

HOVENSA, St. Croix, V.I.

2,400

Huntsman Chemical, Port Neches, Tex. (two units)

27,200

Koch, Corpus Christi, Tex.

1,800

Lyondell, Houston, Tex.

4,000

Lyondell-CITGO Refining, Channelview, Tex.

30,000

Marathon Ashland, Catlettsburgh, Ky.; Detroit, Mich.; Robinson, Ill.

5,740

Motiva, Convent, La.; Delaware City, Del.

4,800

Shell, Deer Park, Tex.; Norco, La.

11,000

Sunoco, Marcus Hook, Penn.

2,500

Tesoro Petroleum, Martinez, Calif.

2,500

Texas Petrochemicals, Houston, Tex.

24,000

Valero Energy, Benicia, Calif.; Corpus Christi, Tex.; Dumas, Tex.; Houston Tex.; Krotz Springs, La.; Texas City, Tex.

28,600

Total

259,190

Source: Data from The Innovation Group and published in the Chemical Market Reporter. http://www.the-innovation-group.com/ChemProfiles/MTBE.htm


Losers

States where more than 10,000 consumers are served by public water systems reporting MTBE contamination. (Served populations do not include systems with abandoned water wells or consumers getting water from private wells.)


In 25 states, MTBE contaminates water systems serving more than 10,000 people.

 

Population served by MTBE-contaminated water system(s) Rank

California

30,989,000

1

Massachusetts

2,212,000

2

New Jersey

2,120,000

3

Pennsylvania

978,000

4

Texas

919,000

5

Florida

629,000

6

Arkansas

486,000

7

New York

455,000

8

New Hampshire

390,000

9

Alabama

282,000

10

Wisconsin

229,000

11

Illinois

218,000

12

Maryland

195,000

13

Indiana

192,000

14

Rhode Island

84,000

15

Nevada

83,000

16

Delaware

78,000

17

Michigan

66,000

18

South Carolina

60,000

19

Maine

57,000

20

New Mexico

39,000

21

Alaska

36,000

22

Minnesota

17,000

23

Missouri

17,000

24

Nebraska

11,000

25

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from state government drinking water contamination data.

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