Publisher's Note — By Jody Reese
Giving MTBE a free ride

by Jody Reese

I don’t like to write about national or even state politics because they tend to become very partisan, and I don’t care strongly for either party.

However, here comes President George Bush with an energy bill that lets MTBE manufacturers off the hook for a multi-billion-dollar clean up. MTBE is a gas additive that has been contaminating New Hampshire groundwater.

It’s such a unfair plan that all of New Hampshire’s delegation, Republicans all, oppose the bill.

The American Water Works Association, a group of water-industry professionals that includes most municipal water providers, also opposes the president’s MTBE plans.

“If it were to become law, this legislative end-run would effectively strip communities of their ability to address MTBE water contamination in court. That would saddle everyday citizens with enormous MTBE cleanup bills and the considerable burden of finding new water sources,” Jack W. Hoffbuhr, executive director of AWWA, wrote in a release. 

The government never mandated that MTBE be used, only that emissions from automobiles be reduced. Gasoline companies trying to find a cheap way to cut down on emissions added the MTBE chemical to gas to reduce smog in urban areas, such as Southern New Hampshire, even though many knew it could harm drinking water. Now it has. It is estimated that it will cost about $30 billion dollars to clean up MTBE. Now the question becomes who should pay?

I think the companies that made it and put it in gasoline should pay. It’s a clear case where companies chose to take the risk. They weighed the potential of contaminating water against the money they would earn selling the chemical. It’s a simple equation all companies make when dealing with risk. To some degree they are legally entitled to take that risk, and by the same token legally obliged to pay when they’re wrong. But now those companies want to change the rules after the game has been played, and the president is doing their dirty work.

I can’t understand how a president who talks about the importance of personal responsibility can introduce a law that would relieve these MTBE companies of their  personal responsibility. Why should taxpayers have to foot the bill for their irresponsibility?

By making it almost impossible for cities, towns and states to sue MTBE makers, the president is essentially giving those companies a free ride. It would be like letting a criminal keep the loot after robbing a store

—Jody Reese

 
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