press release

Chevron Press Release - Chevron Exec Says Feinstein-Bilbray Legislation Is Critical First Step

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 -- Congress has a key opportunity now to fix a major flaw in U.S. environmental policy and -- starting with California -- put the nation back on track toward cleaner air and safe drinking water, a Chevron executive told the World Fuels Conference here today.

Patricia Woertz, president of Chevron Products Co., called for passage of a bill by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Brian Bilbray which would start restoring flexibility to the rules for making reformulated gasoline -- and begin the process of eliminating or reducing the use of the gasoline-blending chemical "MTBE."

MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, increases the oxygen content of gasoline, and is heavily used in 16 states to meet oxygen levels mandated by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. The chemical has since become a big component in gasoline -- especially in California -- causing an unforeseen water-pollution problem, while the oxygen mandate itself has actually done little for air quality.

Woertz said MTBE isn't needed to make the cleaner gasolines required by state and federal laws in smoggy areas. In California, she said, Chevron has proved the point by producing nearly one billion gallons of MTBE-free gasoline.

"We've been a leader in developing cleaner-burning fuels for Californians, and we're going to be a leader in getting MTBE out of their gasoline," said Woertz. "The good news is that we can. The urgency is that we must."

Although MTBE is a national issue, the bill focuses on improving the situation first in California, where overlapping state and federal rules mean that 70 percent of all gasoline sold has about 10 percent MTBE. Woertz said the bill would be a big step toward ultimately fixing MTBE problems elsewhere by helping California refiners meet Gov. Gray Davis's directive to remove it by the end of 2002.

The 1990 oxygen-content mandate for gasoline was intended to help reduce smog, but Woertz said National Research Council scientists and others question that the extra oxygen has helped air quality. Further, MTBE has increased refiners' costs and alarmed health officials by contaminating ground water in numerous areas.

Though the water problem is not a public health hazard, it is a troubling environmental issue, said Woertz, partly because the MTBE controversy has eroded the public's faith in government and gasoline providers. She called for both to set aside past differences, join forces and fix the MTBE problem.

Ms. Woertz's speech is entitled: "The MTBE Mess: Let's Move On."

Updated: September 1999