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The Northeast U.S. & MTBE


Northeast Seeks Phase-Down of Additive Without Compromising Air
Toxics Reductions. Daily Environment Report, August 27, 1999,
pA-9.
 
U.S. Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency should limit the use of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), according to a report by an alliance of Northeast states. The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) proposed a phase-down of MTBE over a period of three
years and then a permanent cap to be established at a reduced level while still maintaining the level of improvements in air quality. "Tens of millions of Northeast residents benefit from reduced exposure to mobile source air toxics, whereas exposure to MTBE at levels above health thresholds are rare," said NESCAUM.
MTBE, a chemical that reduces air toxics from vehicles by displacing toxic ingredients of gasoline, is mainly used in reformulated gasoline which helps to reduce air pollution as a "clean-burning fuel." Currently reformulated gasoline comprises about 30 percent of all U.S. gasoline sold and more than 70 percent of gasoline sold in the Northeast annually. EPA requires the reformulated gasoline to contain 2 percent oxygen, of which
80 percent is met by adding MTBE. The report also indicated that reducing the use of MTBE would also help in cleaning up water supplies in the Northeast
region, which revealed low levels of the chemical. Oil refiners are expected to maintain strict fuel standards in the transition period to reduce the MTBE by continuing to cut
emissions of air toxics, such as benzene and formaldehyde, by 35 percent from "baseline levels - the level of reduction due to addition of MTBE and other fuel changes." Marc Meteyer, fuels team leader of the American Petroleum Institute, sees the use of MTBE declining if the EPA eliminates the requirement that all
reformulated gasoline contain a specific amount of oxygen.

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