Clean Air Act Update 

Summary of Clean Air Act Hearings (6/16/00)

Hearing on EPA's Proposed Sulfur Rule

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
May 20, 1999

Members Present
James Inhofe (R-OK)
John Chafee (R-RI)
Craig Thomas (R-WY)
Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Opening Statements

Inhofe opened the hearing, the second in as many days on this topic, by saying the previous testimony from representatives of the automobile and  oil industry as well as other "interested parties" served only to increase his concerns about the EPA's proposed rule.  Inhofe went on to list a number of these concerns, including the EPA's definition of small refineries, the fact that there was no regional approach to the issue and western states were being subjected to the same standards as the more populated (and hence, more polluted) eastern states, and impacts on our national security related to domestic versus imported gasoline supply.

Thomas (R-WY) also offered a brief opening statement, questioning how the sulfur rule should be applied across the country and the timing of implementation.  He went on to say that clean air isn't the issue here, but the process for getting clean air is.

Panel 1
Carol Browner, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Browner began her testimony by laying the groundwork for why the EPA proposed Tier 2 standards and accompanying low sulfur requirements for gasoline are needed.  Americans are driving more than ever.  "We've gone from under 100 million light vehicles in 1970 to 200 million last year."  Included in this increase is a shift towards "larger light vehicles meeting emission standards 2 to 5 times less stringent than passenger cars."  This adds up to increasing emissions that will, according to Browner, eat away at progress we've made in air quality over the last several years.  The new requirements will phase in "both cleaner vehicle technologies and cleaner burning gasoline" in an effort to keep up with increasing emissions.

Browner went on to justify the new sulfur standards by explaining that sulfur "degrades emission control performance for all vehicles, reducing the effectiveness of the [catalytic converter]."  Her reason for having the same standards nation wide, in the eastern and western states, was simply that as a culture we like to drive and travel.  Tests have shown that introducing "dirty" gas to a catalytic converter, even once, will permanently affect its performance.  Without nationwide standards, "clean vehicles which for any number of reasons might travel to a high-sulfur region would be irreversibly damaged."  Browner emphasized that the EPA is giving auto makers and gas refineries time to phase in the new regulations, that there are rewards/credits for early compliance, and that there are "innovative and flexible" incentives built in (such as fleet averaging).

Inhofe began the question and answer period by going back and forth with Browner over the legal justification for the new standards.  The EPA's cost-benefit analysis is largely based on the "Pope study," a study currently under review on the 1997 standards for ozone and particulate matter.  President Clinton had ordered the EPA  not to base any new standards on the old until after the Pope study review was complete, and Inhofe saw this as a major issue.  Browner countered by saying that it was true the EPA used the Pope study for the cost-benefit analysis, but that it had nothing to do with the legal justification for the new rule.  The two argued over this point for some time before Thomas started his questioning.  Thomas was concerned primarily with the costs and timing of implementation as well as the level of involvement that industry had (or had not had) in the process to date.  In another heated exchange, Browner tried to explain the effort that the agency had gone through to get both the petroleum and automobile industries together and said they were still in a period of public comment and were listening to everyone's concerns.

Boxer was the next senator to question Browner, and was the only one of the present committee members to come out in support of the EPA and the new regulations.  Boxer spent her allotted time talking about the current standards in California, admitting that it does cost more, but believes the costs are worth it for cleaner air.

Several more rounds of questions followed, with all of the committee members contributing.  At one point, Inhofe entered into the record an article that was critical of scientific practices at the EPA from the internationally renowned, peer reviewed journal Readers Digest, earning a few chuckles from the crowd.  Most of the committee's concerns revolved around the affect the new rules would have on refiners, particularly smaller ones.  Inhofe later returned to his earlier contention that the EPA was illegally basing their new regulations on the Pope study, and the hearing was adjourned.

Hearing on EPA's Proposed NOx State Implementation Plans

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property, and Nuclear Safety
June 24, 1999

    The Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetland, Private Property and Nuclear Safety held a hearing on June 24, 1999 on the NOx State Implementation Plans (SIP) requested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  This issue tends to break down along regional lines with the New England and Eastern states on one side and the Midwestern and Northern states on the other.  The controversy revolves around the degree to which regional transport of pollution from the Midwest to the east coast affects air quality and whether involvement by federal agencies, such as the EPA, in how states reduce their NOx is necessary.  Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and two witnesses from New England argued that the New England states cannot achieve healthy levels of air quality without reduction from the Midwest.  Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) and two witnesses from Ohio and Michigan argued that even if all the plants in their states shut down, states like Connecticut still would not meet their emission standards.  At the heart of this issue is whether states or a federal agency should be responsible for implementing clean air policies when the problem may be a regional one, affecting communities outside state boundaries.  Also at issue is the 85% reduction in NOx the EPA is requiring each state to achieve in the implemenation plans they submit; witnesses testified that it creates a hardship for small businesses, will affect other issues such as urban sprawl, and is way beyond what is needed to meet health standards.

Senators Present
Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT)
Senator George Voinovich (R-OH)

Opening Statements
    Chairman  Inhofe called attention to the timeliness of this hearing as the court issued a stay on May 25th suspending the requirement of states to submit NOx reduction plans to the EPA.  Inhofe expressed concern that the void created by this ruling leaves the states without guidance on how to proceed. He wanted to hear from the states on "if you go forward with something now and either the courts or the EPA change the rules during the process, what will be the effect?"  He also drew attention to the use of 126 petitions by the EPA in face of the court stay and the rejection of the 8 hour standard.  Inhofe stressed that this conflict and subsequent backpedaling could have been avoided if the EPA had worked with others involved, specifically the states.
    Senator Voinovich, while stating he was an environmentalist, was extremely critical of the EPA.  He argued that he had spent over 100 hours trying to convince the EPA that the costs of the NOx SIP call outweighed the benefits.  He stated that the NOx standard and state implementation plans required by the EPA were costly and not based on sound science.  He went on to state that the EPA had a complete "lack of regard for reasonable approaches" and that the EPA decisions were "arbitrary and capricious."  Voinovich argued that if the EPA had not disregarded state experts and instead worked with the states and considered the plan submitted by Midwest and Southeast governors, these lawsuits and court cases could have been avoided.
    Senator Lieberman argued that the national EPA NOx standard and deadline for state implementation plans were necessary as pollution crossed regional boundaries making it unsolvable at the local level.  Lieberman stated that "Connecticut is choking on the exhaust of others" and that Connecticut has "been plagued by the transport of ozone air polution....from Midwestern states."  He argued that the EPA's NOx standards are supported by scientific research.  This rule "established a regional cap and trade program for large sources of NOx emissions."  Lieberman supports the requirement by the EPA of NOx state implementation plans because the "rule is not only sensible, but essential."  Lieberman cited several negative effects of excess pollution such as premature death and escalated cases of asthma in children.  He  argued that air pollution is a regional problem and "can only be solved by a regional remedy."

Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Sharon Treat 
Maine State Senate 
Gardiner, Maine
The Honorable Thomas Nye 
Hamilton, Ohio
The Honorable F. Wayne Hill 
Gwinnett Country Commissioner 
Lawrenceville, Georgia

Testimony of Ms. Sharon Treat
    Ms. Treat supports the EPA's NOx standard and requirement of state implementation plans because she sees it as the only way to reduce pollution in the state of Maine.  She argued that the New England states are not asking their upwind neighbors to make any sacrifices that they themselves are not willing to make, but science and modeling show that Maine can not achieve safe levels on its own.  The long-distance movement of smog is beyond the regional control of local managers.  She argued that much of Maine's economy is based on a healthy environment that has clean air and clean water.  If these are destroyed, so is the economic health of her constituents.

Testimony of Mr. Thomas Nye
    Mr. Nye's concerns centered on how the NOx SIP call would affect smaller entities. His town built a hydroelectric power plant to replace their coal boiler as the primary power source.  This was done before 1990, when the EPA baseline for reductions was measured.  He argued that they have already spent $7000 per ton of NOx removed on building the power plant and that the reductions the EPA is asking for would be a hardship.  He argued for the establishment of a Clean Air Partnership fund that makes grants to local producers for innovative techniques.  The NOx regulations should mirror the sulfur dioxide regulations in that they allow small businesses additional time to phase in solutions.  He disagrees with the EPA requirement for states to submit to them an NOx implementation plan because it, in his opinion, goes beyond what is necessary to protect health.  He does support the market trading on NOx emissions as the only way to reduce pollution.

Testimony of Mr. Wayne Hill
    Mr. Hill encouraged Congress to coordinate policy among the Federal agencies that each have individual policies for the same issue. Mr. Hill also wanted Congress to take into account the effect air quality regulations have on other issues such as urban sprawl. He argued that as regulations become more stringent for air quality, companies were encouraged to move out of the city and develop in the suburbs.  He urged Congress to take into account the economic impacts of its environmental regulations.

Question and Answer Session for Panel 1
    Inhofe wanted to clarify what the costs were of reductions per ton of NOx as Mr. Nye had given a figure of $7000/ton, but the EPA estimated $1056/ton.  Mr. Nye replied that it depended on the size of the business, since the cost of the technology was the same whether spread over 50 tons or 500.  Ms. Treat stressed that controlling pollution from large power plants is the most effective means of reduction.  Lieberman asked Ms. Treat to detail what activities Maine had pursued to reduce their emissions by 14% while the national average increased by 1%.  Ms. Treat listed Maine's efforts to move to cleaner fuels and the adoption of California  low-emission standards.  Mr. Hill asked the committee to remember that natural components of the regional systems, such as humidity, make it hard for specific regions to meet these regulations.  Voinovich stated that if Ohio shut down all its plants that Connecticut still would not reach its regulations and that the New England states also cause problems.

Witness Panel 2
Mr. Russell J. Harding 
Michigan Department Environmental Qualtiy 
Lansing, Michigan
Ms. Jane, Stahl 
Deputy Commissioner 
CT Department of Environmental Protection 
Hartford, Connecticut

Testimony of Ms. Stahl
    Ms. Stahl stated that the chief source of pollution in her state is that which is produced in other regions and transported by regional air circulation pattern into Conneticut.  She stated that Connecticut is at a "distinct geographic disadvantage."  She argued that Connecticut and other New England states cannot achieve pollution standards without "action by sister states."  She supports the "implementation of a regional, market-based, emissions allowance trading program."  However, in the absence of federal leadership, she supports reinstating the 126 petitions.

Testimony of Mr. Harding
    Mr. Harding does not support the EPA's requirement of a SIP for NOx, stating that EPA Administrator,Carol Browner "has built a house of card on bad science and bad politics."  Mr. Harding stated that Michigan has stricter standards than those proposed in the federal regulations and on its own has reduced pollution by 75% in the last 10 years.  He would be willing to meet any liability for New England air quality if proven by good science. However, he argued that Browner has been in an advocacy role for the New England states, rejecting proposals that do not support her position.  He cited an alternative NOx standard proposal signed by govenors of southeast and midwest states that was "an environmentally superior plan to the EPA's NOx SIP call", but which was "summarily rejected" by Browner.

Question and Answer Session for Panel 2
    Lieberman, to establish the severity of transport pollution in his state, asked Ms. Stahl if Connecticut would meet standards if they stopped all man-made emissions in the state.  Ms. Stahl answered that a full reduction in Connecticut would still not meet health standards. She also added that New England has used up all the cost-effective solutions, but that some of these are still available in the Midwest.  She stated that "significant reductions are available at a lower cost in the Midwest."  Mr. Harding responded by saying the Clean Air Act stated that the federal government sets the standards but allows the states to determine how to achieve them.  The EPA's NOx SIP call revokes that power.  Mr. Harding wants the federal government to develop scientific and technical principals that determine each state's culpability, then allow the states to implement changes.  Voinovich stated that EPA's NOx standard requires an unreachable 85% reduction and that with the court stay the federal government has the chance to move forward on a more reasonable standards.

Hearing on Environmental Benefits and Impacts of Ethanol Under Clean Air Act

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property, and Nuclear Safety
June 14, 2000


The Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property and Nuclear Safety held a hearing on June 14, 2000 on the environmental benefits and impacts of ethanol as an oxygenate for reformulated gasoline (RFG) as a possible replacement for methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).  Such debate comes at a time when MTBE, an additive in fuel to help clean the air, is found to be the second largest groundwater chemical contaminant in the country.  Among the issues at the center of the debate in this hearing are: how MTBE should be phased out; is an oxygenate requirement in RFG as mandated in 1990 ultimately beneficial; and is ethanol a viable alternative to be used in replacement of MTBE.

Senators Present

Chairman Jim M. Inhofe (R-OK)
Senator Christopher S. Bond (R-MO)
Senator Bob Graham (D-FL)
Senator Joseph I. Leiberman (D-CT)
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH)

Opening Statements

Chairman Inhofe started by stating the history of the use and the air and water quality issues relating to MTBE and the possibility of creating a new mandate for the use of ethanol.  He said this hearing comes at a good time where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started blaming the oil companies and vice versa for the high cost of gasoline, especially in the Midwest, where RFG phase 2 has begun with the use of ethanol.  He mentioned that Congress should currently focus on the MTBE issue this year and look into the EPA recommendations in their report that came out last week called "Analysis of Policy Scenarios for Reducing or Eliminating MTBE" by rewriting the Title 2 fuels section of the Clean Air Act (CAA) during reauthorization next year.  He said that the EPA report clearly shows that "the Administration would rather play games and pander to constituent groups than enter into a serious policy discussion about real environmental problems."  A few items from the report that Inhofe chose to bring to light was the lack of any discussion on the environmental problems associated with ethanol; calling the use of ethanol as a cost-effective approach even while admitting that costs will almost double; and also that they ignore independent scientist statements that the use of ethanol should be further tested and studied before being mandated.

Senator Bond stated that ethanol currently and will continue to play an important role in upkeeping the nation's environmental, economic and energy security.  He stated that ethanol, which contains 35% oxygen, enhances combustion and reduces carbon monoxide (CO) emissions by as much as 30% as well as reducing the emissions of harmful ozone, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxides.  Ethanol is an organic, non-toxic, biodegradable substance that is helpful to the economy by helping farmers and is good for the environment--both air and water.  And, he continued, that ethanol "moves us away from this energy hostage situation where our reliance on foreign-produced oil makes our producers, consumers and economy subject to the whims of international cartel autocrats."  But, he said, it is unfortunate that some are trying to use the sins of MTBE as a reason to pull the plug mid-stream on clean-burning ethanol and that Congress should act to come up with a solution to the MTBE problem that does not sacrifice air quality and does not jeopardize the nation's water supplies.

Senator Graham stated that he well yield to the experts.

Senator Lieberman stated that Congress should look to ethanol as a possible replacement to reduce or eliminate concerns on water quality.  But he has two concerns on the use of ethanol in the Northeast region: 1) that ethanol is much more volatile than MTBE and may create emissions which may worsen smog in the summer months; and 2) that with a lack of a regional production and distribution infrastructure in the area, ethanol would have to be exported, which creates great complexities.

Senator Boxer stated that she likes the idea presented by Stephen Gotto, President and CEO of BC International which utilizes new technologies to manufacture ethanol from cellulosic biomass wastes,
such as wood waste, crop residue, urban waste, and non-energy intensive dedicated crops.  Particulary in her representative state of California where Sacramento area rice farmers would have the option to use rice waste for use in ethanol.  She stated that she has no prejudice on what goes into gas, just as long as it does not risk air or water quality.  She stated that ethanol would decrease our dependence on foreign oil and would help farmers.  She also stated that the country needs to get rid of MTBE much sooner and listed the contamination problems that Santa Monica has faced with their drinking water.

Senator Voinovich as well stated his strong support for the use of ethanol for its environmental, economic, and sustainable energy benefits in its use.  He stated that ethanol has been used successfully to improve air quality in areas that use RFG and has also reduced CO emissions under the oxygenated fuels program in CO nonattainment areas.  He also stated that oxygenates, such as ethanol, also reduce the use of aromatics in gasoline, many of which are known or potential human carcinogens.  However, he stated, that Congress needs to keep in mind the effects that any increased ethanol use would have on the Highway Trust Fund.  Because ethanol currently receives a federal tax credit of 5.4 cents per gallon of gasohol, OMB estimates that the annual revenue loss due to the tax credit is $800 million.  And that 3.1 cents of the tax that is collected on ethanol is credited to the general fund and not to the Highway Trust Fund.

Additional testimony was submitted to the record by Senator Smith and Senator Bennett and can be found on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works website.

Witness Panel 1
Dan Greenbaum
Health Effects Institute
Cambridge, MA 
Blake Early
Environmental Consultant
American Lung Association
Michael Graboski
Colorado Institute for Fuels and High Altitude Engine Research 
Department of Chemical Engineering
Colorado School of Mines
Lakewood, CO 
Bob Slaughter
Director, Public Policy
National Petrochemical and Refiners Association
Jack Huggins
Vice President, Ethanol Operations
Williams Energy Services
Pekin, IL 
Jason S. Grumet
Executive Director
Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management
Boston, MA 
Stephen Gatto
President and CEO
BC International
Dedham, MA 
Gordon Proctor
Ohio Department of Transportation
Columbus, OH 

Testimony of Dan Greenbaum

Dan Greenbaum served as the former Chair of EPA's Blue Ribbon Panel on oxygenates in gasoline, which provided its recommendations for the nation's use of oxygenates late last year.  His testimony centered on the health consequences of using ethanol in gasoline.  He argued that the Health Effects Institute has substantial scientific evidence on the health effects of ingesting ethanol, particulary with pregnant mothers who ingest relatively high volumes and see their infants suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome.  But, he continued, "although much is known about the effects of ethanol at high levels, it is likely that exposure of citizens to ethanol through either inhalation while refilling their fuel tanks, or through ingestion of ethanol-contaminated drinking water, will be substantially below levels at which effects have been seen."  He also argued that while the current information on ethanol and its effects is somewhat reassuring, it is critical that accelerated efforts be made to fill key information gaps before widespread increases in the use of any additive are taken into effect in order to avoid the catastrophe seen with the use of MTBE.  He recommends that the EPA and others should accelerate ongoing research efforts into the inhalation and ingestion health effects, air emission transformation byproducts, and environmental behavior of all oxygenates and other components likely to increase in the absence of MTBE, including research on ethanol, alkaylates, and aromatics.

Testimony of Blake Early

Blake Early appeared on behalf of the American Lung Association (ALA) and simply argued that ethanol should be used in gasoline when it can help provide useful properties to reduce air pollution and it should be discouraged from being used if the result is increased air pollution.  Because ethanol's greatest attribute is in its ability in reducing CO, the ALA supports the use of ethanol in the wintertime to help reduce unhealthy levels.  But while ethanol can help achieve limits to aromatics and sulfur, they do not guarantee that result, which is in part why the ALA does not support the mandatory use of ethanol in RFG.  He continues to list problems that may be seen if ethanol use is mandated: 1) increase in volatility; 2) increase in volatility of non-ethanol fuels; 3) increase in nitrogen oxides and particulates.  He recommended that ethanol should not be mandated in summertime gasoline used in smoggy areas and that the best thing to do would be to set air quality performance requirements for gasoline and allow refiners to use ethanol when and where they need to while meeting performance requirements, taking into account evaporation effects.

Testimony of Michael Graboski

Michael Graboski appeared on behalf of the National Corn Grower's Association.  He testified on research conducted on the effects of removing oxygen from reformulated gasoline on emissions of ozone-forming volatile organic compounds (VOC), CO, toxic air pollutants, and particulate matter as well as the following environmental and public health benefits resulting from the use of oxygenates in comparison to gasoline produced without oxygenates.  He stated that if refiners make non-oxygenated RFG with the same mass toxics reduction as oxygenated gasoline there will be a negative impact on public health because potency weighted toxic emissions will increase due to increases in aromatics that will be used to meet octane and other performance requirements with the absence in use of oxygenates.  He also has found that ozone-forming emissions may increase by almost 3% when oxygenates are removed from RFG.  Studies have also shown that ethanol reduces particulate matter of 2.5 microns and heavy carcinogenic aromatics emitted from cars and trucks by 30% for clean, normal emitting cars, and 60% for dirty, high emitting cars.

Testimony of Bob Slaughter

Bob Slaughter testified on behalf of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA).  He stated that the NPRA opposes mandates of any form and that they ultimately result in higher costs to the consumer.  He continued by stating that enacting another mandate to replace the problematic current one could have much greater negative consequences, including tighter and less reliable fuel supplies, the potential for increased smog-creating emissions, and the potential to create a consumer backlash.  He argued that Congress and the EPA should follow the recommendations of the EPA's Blue Ribbon Panel and that they should provide enough time for the transition to allow refiners to continue providing adequate supplies of gasoline and other petroleum products to consumers without undue cost increases.

Testimony of Jack Huggins

Jack Huggins testified on behalf of the Williams Company, which owns and operates nearly 60,000 miles of natural gas and liquid pipelines located throughout the United States.  Williams Co. is also a producer and large processor of natural gas and natural gas liquids, and their energy marketing and trading group is one of the largest in the country.  He stated that the oxygenate requirement is important for clean air and has been the equivalent of removing 16 million vehicles from the road per year.  He continued that Williams Co. does not advocate using the legislative process to favor one fuel over another, but if ethanol is found to provide a better overall environmental solution than MTBE, then they would have no problem in using ethanol.  He stated that ethanol production can be expanded to replace MTBE and can be transported and distributed efficiently to California and other RFG markets.  He stated that the EPA should allow for flexibility if a mandate is legislated by allowing refiners to apply the oxygen requirement on an average basis, rather than a per gallon basis.

Testimony of Jason Grumet

Jason Grumet testified on behalf of the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), which is an association of state air pollution control agencies representing Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.  He stated that in order to sufficiently protect the economic and environmental viability of the Northeast states, Congress should: 1) lift the oxygen mandate; 2) severely curtail and if necessary eliminate MTBE; 3) maintain the VOC, nitrogen oxides, and toxic emission benefits; and 4) allow ethanol to grow on the basis of its legitimate and considerable attributes.

Testimony of Stephen Gatto

Stephen Gatto testified on behalf of BC International Corporation, a company that is utilizing new technologies to manufacture ethanol from cellulosic biomass wastes, such as wood waste, crop residue, urban waste, and non-energy intensive dedicated crops.  He stated that there is more to biomass ethanol than environmental, economic, and sustainable energy benefits.  Both corn starch ethanol and biomass ethanol provide a positive net energy balance, meaning that the amount of energy contained in a gallon of ethanol is greater than the amount of fossil fuel energy required to produce that gallon of ethanol.  He states that going beyond corn ethanol to other cellulosic biomass wastes creates the oppportunity to expand production and distribution facilities across the entire country, limiting costs while also decreasing waste disposal.

Testimony of Gordon Proctor

Gordon Proctor, Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, pointed out to the committee an unintended cosequence that has occurred in Ohio as a result of increasing ethanol consumption.  The use of ethanol-blended gasoline in Ohio has increased from 19% to 40% and there is a 5.4 cent per gallon federal tax break on each gallon of ethanol-blended gasoline sold with 3.1 cents credited to the general revenue fund and not the Highway Trust Fund.  Ohio's contribution to the Highway Trust Fund, therefore, has been reduced by 8.5 cents for each gallon of ethanol-blended fuel sold in Ohio, reducing federal highway funding by $185 million annually to the state.  He asked that in future deliberations, that Congress take ethanol into account in consideration of highway funding formulas and that the 3.1 cents of ethanol tax that is credited to the general fund be redirected to the Highway Trust Fund.

Question and Answer Session

Senator Inhofe asked each person in the panel whether they believed more research should be conducted on the environmental and health effects of ethanol before a mandate is issued--each said yes.

Senator Boxer asked Dan Greenbaum if any substantial problems have been found yet with the use of ethanol on public health.  Dan Greenbaum answered that because ethanol is so highly volatile and degrades quickly it is not a problem of contamination in drinking water supplies.  However, with the degradation of ethanol, an increase in the prevalence of benzene may be found.  He stated that monitoring needs to be conducted in areas where ethanol is used in order to find a correlation with ethanol and benzene.  He said that more research also needs to be conducted to look at the effect of ethanol on other chemicals, which may take 3 to 4 years.

Witness Panel 2

Testimony of Sen. Charles Grassley

Senator Grassley stated that he is a firm believer in ethanol in that it helps farmers by providing a $4.5 billion per year value-added market for their commodities, improves air quality, and improves energy security by reducing reliance on OPEC.  He stated that MTBE renders water undrinkable, but "if ethanol gets in the water, the worst that could happen is you might have to decide whether you want to add some ice, tonic or soda."  He stated that MTBE, a petroleum-derived chemical, was pushed by refiners and the oil industry in doing everything in its power through the regulatory and legal system to guarantee that only MTBE would be used as an oxygenate for RFG.  And now, he continued, the American Petroleum Institute "has the gall to blame ethanol for the high gasoline prices."  When the truth is that ethanol delivered to Chicago and Milwaukee has a net cost of 71 cents per gallon, which is 81 cents less than the price of gasoline now.  Grassley also stated that he is a co-sponsor of S. 2546, with Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), that would preserve the oxygen requirement and the clean air gains under the CAA, while banning MTBE.

Testimony of Sen. Tom Harkin

Senator Harkin started off by stating the air quality benefits of the RFG program and then listed the disastrous water quality effects with the use of MTBE for RFG.  He stated that it is the oil companies that caused the MTBE problem and that they now are calling on Congress to do away with the oxygen formula requirement in RFG.  He stated that legislation regarding the RFG program should: 1) eliminate MTBE; 2) maintain the oxygen content requirement; 3) account for the environmental benefits of ethanol as an additive to gasoline in the reduction of CO, toxic compounds and fine particulate matter; and 4) maintain and increase the opportunities of ethanol and other renewable fuels in comparison to the current RFG program.

Testimony of Sen. Richard J. Durbin

Senator Durbin spoke of the Clean Air and Water Preservation Act of 2000 (S. 2546), which would ban MTBE within three years and urge refiners to replace it with ethanol.  The bill would also require gasoline stations to label pumps that still sell MTBE and would also include an anti-backsliding provision to ensure air quality standards do not decrease.

Also submitted for the record was written testimony by Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL), who was not present at the hearing.  His and all other testimony can be found on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works website.


Sources:  Hearing Testimony

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Contributed by AGI/AIPG Geoscience Policy Interns Scott Broadwell, Sarah Robinson, and Nathan Morris

Last updated June 16, 2000

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