press release

Chevron Press Release - Senator Feinstein And Chevron Chairman Announce Plan To Eliminate MTBE

Chevron Pledges to Reduce MTBE By 50% Immediately - If Federal Law Becomes Effective

(l-r) California Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chevron Chairman Ken Derr, Chevron Products Co. President Pat Woertz

(l-r) California Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chevron Chairman Ken Derr, Chevron Products Co. President Pat Woertz

SAN FRANCISCO, March 29 -- U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein joined with Chevron Chairman Ken Derr today to announce a "fast track" plan to reduce and eliminate MTBE from California gasoline.

In a press conference at Chevron headquarters, Sen. Feinstein, (D-Calif.), said the proposed plan would allow Chevron to reduce immediately about half the MTBE used in California gasoline after the legislation she is sponsoring becomes effective. MTBE could be eliminated altogether within two years, if three key conditions are met.

"This is the fastest, most reasonable, and best achievable path to eliminate MTBE from California gasoline," said Feinstein, "but to be successful, this plan requires legislation I've introduced in Washington, and coordinated actions on the part of state and federal regulators. Those actions would allow replacement of the oxygenate MTBE with a combination of oxygen-free and ethanol-blended gasoline," said Feinstein.

Chevron Chairman Derr agreed. "This is an action plan to make California MTBE-free in only two years, but it requires proposed legislation such as Sen. Feinstein's and Congressman Bilbray's, to remove overlapping federal requirements on California Cleaner Burning Gasoline. Their proposed legislation will jump start and accelerate the removal of MTBE," said Derr.

"Chevron has heard the concerns Californians have voiced about MTBE in gasoline," added Derr. "While we believe that MTBE poses no significant health risk, we also believe that it does pose an environmental concern. We have the need, and the ability, to make cleaner-burning gasoline in California without adding MTBE or other similar oxygenates.

"Chevron is committed to protecting the people and environment of California," said Derr. "We have long been opposed to federal mandates requiring oxygen be added to gasoline. Oxygenates such as MTBE do little to reduce smog, so MTBE is not needed to preserve the clean air benefits achieved by California's cleaner-burning gasoline."

Chevron's three-part plan was explained by Patricia Woertz, president of Chevron Products Co., which manages Chevron's U.S. refinery and service station network. "Legislation to remove the federal mandate for oxygen as it applies to California is the essential first step," said Woertz, "The U.S. Congress needs to pass federal legislation, such as the bills proposed by Sen. Feinstein and Congressman Bilbray. If this legislation becomes effective, Chevron pledges to immediately cut the use of MTBE in our California gasoline by 50 percent or more, compared to MTBE in Chevron gasoline when Cleaner Burning Gasoline was introduced. California already has the cleanest burning gasoline in any mass marketplace worldwide," she said. "If the Feinstein/Bilbray legislation becomes effective, we can continue to make Cleaner Burning Gasoline in California -- with no sacrifice in emissions or air quality standards.

"Step two," said Woertz, "is to require all refiners to remove MTBE from half of all gasoline produced in northern California within two years of enactment of appropriate state legislation. Northern California," she said, "is the one area of the state that does not have overlapping federal reformulated gasoline requirements, except in the Sacramento area. It is therefore easier for northern California to move faster in removing MTBE from its gasoline.

"We know this can be done because at our Richmond refinery two summers ago, Chevron began producing non-oxygenated gasoline for use in areas where oxygenates are not required in gasoline. To date, we've made over 700 million gallons of non-oxygenated gasoline."

In addition to Sacramento, federal mandates apply to most of southern California, which is out of compliance for smog. Altogether, federal law mandates that oxygen be added to gasoline in about 70 percent of the state.

"Step three is state legislation needed for a complete statewide phaseout of MTBE two years after Feinstein/Bilbray or similar legislation becomes effective. This important objective," said Woertz, "not only relies on removing the federal mandate for oxygen in California gasoline, but also requires state action to increase flexibility in blending gasoline and in obtaining construction permits. We want to work closely with the state to put elimination of MTBE on the fastest track possible. Our plan would replace MTBE-blended gasoline with a combination of non-oxygenated and ethanol-blended gasoline.

"Should Feinstein/Bilbray or similar not pass in timely fashion, we believe it would take four or more years to completely eliminate MTBE from California gasoline. And we have concerns about transporting enough ethanol (the only practical alternative) into California, and about transporting out of California, gasoline blend stocks (pentanes) that would no longer be usable."

"Chevron stands ready to do its part to eliminate MTBE from gasoline in California," said Derr, "and we appreciate the role of Sen. Feinstein, Gov. Davis, Congressman Bilbray and others in supporting the bold but necessary legislation to accelerate the removal of MTBE from California gasoline."

Updated: March 1999