Release 98-56      
September 16, 1998 


Allan Hirsch
Joe Irvin
(916) 322-2990


ARB Chairman Dunlap Asks U.S. Senate to Halt Oxygenate Mandate

       Air Resources Board (ARB) Chairman John D. Dunlap today urged the U.S. Senate to approve a bill that would eliminate the federal requirement for the use of oxygenated fuel additives such as MTBE in California gasoline.

       Dunlap testified on behalf of Governor Pete Wilson before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in Washington, D.C.  The bill, S. 1576 by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, would exempt California from a federal law that requires the use of MTBE or similar gasoline additives in regions with severe air pollution.  Approximately 70% of California gasoline -- including gasoline in most of Southern California and the greater Sacramento area -- is subject to the requirement.

       "It is possible to make commercial quantities of cleaner-burning gasoline without mandated levels of oxygenated additives," Dunlap said.

       In his testimony, Dunlap stressed the differences between federal and California gasoline regulations.  California's cleaner-burning gasoline standards produce about twice the air-quality benefits of fuel meeting federal reformulated gasoline standards.   California does not require gasoline to contain specified levels of oxygenates as long as refiners can demonstrate using ARB procedures that their fuel produces the required emission reductions.  In contrast, federal law requires Southern California and Sacramento gasoline to contain specified levels of oxygenates without exception.  Northern California refiners routinely reduce the oxygenate content of their gasoline, Dunlap said.

       "Incredibly, the federal oxygen rule prevents refiners from selling Northern California gasoline with reduced or no oxygenates in Southern California, even though the Northern California gasoline provides twice the clean-air benefits required by the federal government," Dunlap said.

       MTBE, the oxygenated additive used in most California gasoline, has become a subject of concern because it contaminates water more readily than other gasoline components and is more difficult to remove from water.

       Feinstein's bill, as well as a similar bill by Rep. Brian Bilbray of San Diego, "will allow our flexible gasoline program to provide its best response to public concern over MTBE," Dunlap said.

       "As long as California is subject to the federal oxygen rule, our ability to respond to MTBE concerns will be extremely limited.  The burden of addressing the growing unease over MTBE in California and other states will come full-force to the nation's capital, and it will remain in the nation's capital," Dunlap said.

      For Dunlap's complete testimony, please contact ARB's Public Information Office at (916) 322-2990.

         The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency.  ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy.  The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.

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