IN BREAK WITH PARTY, SCHWARZENEGGER OPPOSES BIG OIL BAILOUT
WASHINGTON — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has come out against a provision in the federal energy bill shielding oil companies from lawsuits over water pollution by the toxic gasoline additive MTBE — a stance at odds with his fellow Republicans in the California congressional delegation, who all voted for it.
On May 13, Schwarzenegger wrote to Sen. Pete Domenici, chair of the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee, and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the panel's ranking Democrat, "to share with you my views regarding federal energy policy." In a list of recommendations on gasoline additives, the governor wrote: "Eliminate the exemption that MTBE manufacturers are free from liability for damages caused by their product." (The letter is available atwww.ewg.org.)
MTBE was added to gasoline in California and other states to make cars run cleaner. But it is also a potential human carcinogen whose foul smell, even in minute amounts, renders water undrinkable. It has leaked from thousands of underground fuel storage tanks into water supplies, where it is difficult and expensive to remove.
Last month, each of the 20 Republican members of Congress from California voted against an amendment offered by Rep. Lois Capps of Santa Barbara that would have struck from the energy bill the provision that MTBE makers can't be sued for manufacturing and selling a defective product. The amendment failed by a margin of six votes, and the bill passed. The Senate will soon take up its