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Dirty Air, Dirty Water


How Corporate Power Compromises Public Health, Environmental Quality and
Government Integrity In the Name of "Environmental Protection"

Julian C. Holmes



The use of oxygenated reformulated gasoline (RFG) was established in Maine by Federal and State officials:

The same reasoning had been used previously to establish CARTEST.

Dirty Air, Dirty Water examines the scientific basis for, discusses limitations of, and reviews the politics leading to the use of CARTEST and the use of oxygenated reformulated-gasoline (RFG) to reduce ozone in Maine. This Report was prepared, originally, for the Maine Legislature Select Committee to Study the Health Effects of Reformulated Gasoline [identified by capital letters in the following text as the "COMMITTEE"].

-- Principal Findings

[The complete set of Findings is Appendix 1.]

SECTION II -- Chemistry of Ozone Pollution

Ozone, a molecule comprising three atoms of oxygen, is a gas poisonous to animals, plants, and to people.{5.1 Ozone is generated in the air by primarily warm-weather chemical interactions among three ingredients: VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), NOx (Nitrogen Oxides), and sunlight.{5.2 Two of the necessary ingredients, VOCs and NOx, are chemicals generated by man's various activities as well as by plant life.

VOCs are hydrocarbons that evaporate directly from the organic chemicals we use or encounter in daily life -- such as acetone, benzene, gasoline, or fresh asphalt. VOCs are also produced when organic matter is burned as in an incinerator, power plant, wood stove, oil furnace, or a gasoline engine. But most VOCs in Maine's air (92%) are produced in nature by trees.{5.3

Molecules of the second kind are called oxides of nitrogen (NOx). They are mainly combustion products from man's activities. Automobiles, industry, and incineration are major sources of NOx.{5.4

MDEP prepares "inventories" of VOCs and NOx that are emitted into the air in Maine. It is the amounts of ambient VOCs and NOx actually in the air that determine how fast ozone is produced.

Early on, Maine officials committed themselves to VOC-reduction strategies for lowering ozone. Today, some of these officials are understandably less than at ease with the fact that most VOCs in Maine come from trees, not automobiles -- a fact, that for practical purposes, dictates NOx reductions in order to lower ozone.{5.5 The seminal National Research Council reference guide to air-pollution science warns, "The biogenic VOC contribution [from trees] is a background concentration that cannot be removed from the atmosphere by emission controls".{5.6 (CARTEST and RFG are examples of proposals to lower ozone by controlling emissions of VOCs.)

Furthermore, in Maine, the relative abundance of ambient VOCs, compared to NOx, is such that we have often a condition known in atmospheric-chemistry circles, as "NOx-limited"{5.7, again a situation which requires, in order to lower ozone, that NOx be reduced, more so than VOCs. Nevertheless, at MDEP the emphasis is to reduce the concentration of man-made VOCs{5.8 -- which, reduces insignificantly the total VOC inventory which, in turn, will reduce even less significantly our ozone air-pollution.

A January 1993 finding of an Ozone Transport Region (OTR) study prepared for the Ozone Transport Commission was that "additional VOC reductions when added to strong NOx reductions provide little additional benefit in most areas of the OTR."{5.8.1 [Where ozone drift, up the east coast, from state to state, contributes substantially to ambient ozone concentration is called the Ozone Transport Region (N.VA, DC, MD, PA, DE, NJ, NY, CT, RI, MA, VT, NH, ME)].

A subsequent report to the Ozone Transport Commission on ozone modeling for the New York Airshed found "both ROM and UAM [computer models] have predicted that ozone concentrations in the New York Airshed can be reduced more by NOx [reductions] than VOC reductions".{5.8.2

Because biogenic VOCs lower the effectiveness of VOC-reduction strategies to control generation of ozone, there has been justified concern that current VOC-emission tables may underestimate the proportion of biogenic VOCs (BVOCs) in the total VOC population. Recently, USEPA and NOAA [National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration] scientists measured biogenic emissions and generated "An improved model for estimating emissions of volatile organic compounds from forests in the eastern United States".{5.8.3 This new model "yields isoprene (a BVOC) emission rate estimates ...that are 5 to 10 times higher (and total BVOC emission rates that are 3 to 5 times higher) than the Environmental Protection Agency BVOC emission rate model currently used."{5.8.4

A recent EPA-sponsored scientific modeling of ozone-reduction strategies finds that "an earlier understanding of the chemistry of urban ozone indicated that controlling emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or hydrocarbons, would lower ozone concentrations in the most efficient manner. These controls seemed to work well in the worst urban ozone cases but not so well for the rural and smaller urban areas. Underestimating the importance of naturally occurring VOCs [BVOCs] and the magnitude of anthropogenic VOCs may have overstated the potential for using VOC controls to reduce high ozone concentrations".{5.8.5

The BVOC portion of MDEP's current VOC-emissions inventory is derived from the EPA's biogenic emissions inventory system (BEIS model).{5.9 Thus, current MDEP data on BVOCs exaggerate the effectiveness of VOC-emission-control to lower atmospheric ozone.

MDEP: "Maine VOC-Reduction Program has Insignificant Effect on Ozone"

I have testified extensively as to the apparent ineffectiveness of MDEP's ozone program{5.10, and MDEP has occasionally hinted that it really does understand the contradiction between its program and established scientific understanding about ozone control.{5.11 With regard to Maine's claim that its VOC-control program will actually enable Maine to meet ozone standards, MDEP Air Bureau Chief Dennis L. Keschl (January 1995) told me,

In July 1995, MDEP senior meteorologist Clifton Michaelsen informed me:

Michaelsen also said that biogenic emissions may be several times greater than predicted and that it is unfortunate the important scientific evaluation is not keeping up with the programs.{5.12

In May 1996, MDEP Air Bureau Chief James Brooks acknowledged that:

My own relatively primitive calculations suggest that, in southern Maine where the pollution is worst, the contribution to ozone reduction from VOC reduction is less than 1%.{5.12.2

New Hampshire Air Resources Director: "Useless to Try to Control" VOCs

A recent newspaper story on air pollution and automobile traffic in Maine and New Hampshire quotes New Hampshire Air Resources Division Director Ken Colburn:

Some Maine officials may agree, but they continue CARTEST and MTBE programs that depend on controlling VOCs to reduce ozone.{5.13

US EPA Ozone-Measurement Trends: No Substantial Reduction

The New England Office of the EPA claims that current EPA data show general ozone-reduction in the east that is consistent with automobile-emissions testing and the use of RFG,{5.13.1

From EPA's current air-quality data for the United States,5.13.2">{5.13.2 I have averaged the ozone listings (second-highest daily maximum 1-hour concentrations of ozone from each of 62 eastern U.S. ozone-measuring sites) and plotted in Figure 1 the result for each year from 1986 to 1995.{5.13.3 Thus it can be seen that the EPA data is not a strong argument for a causal relationship between ozone reduction programs and ozone levels.

In fact, the 1988 ozone high and the 1989 low (Figure 1) were described in 1991 by the National Research Council as likely results of "meteorological fluctuations" and furthermore that "the principal measure currently used to assess ozone trends (i.e. 2nd-highest daily maximum 1-hour concentration in a given year) ... is not a reliable measure of progress in reducing ozone over several years for a given area"{5.13.4 and that "over the past two decades, the substantial reductions in ozone concentrations predicted to result from the VOC reductions in major urban centers have not occurred. ...The reasons for this failure are largely unknown."{5.13.5 If the data in Figure 1 were to be considered a "reliable" measure of ozone trends, it seems not much has happened recently (between 1991 and 1995) to suggest an ozone-reduction.

SECTION III -- The Clean Air Act and Maine's 15% Rate-of-Progress Plan

The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA) cleared the way for the Government to place on the backs of individual automobile owners the responsibility for cleaning up industrial America's dirty air. Those amendments were characterized by U.S. Public Interest Research Group Executive Director Gene Karpinski as a "bad deal for the average citizen, and a bad deal for state and local governments, who would be more vulnerable to economic blackmail by polluting industries".{5.14

A fundamental part of the CAAA was an already scientifically questionable requirement that did not take into account the relevant ozone-producing chemistry. It required that jurisdictions with polluted air implement a plan to reduce man-made VOCs by 15% by November 1996.{5.15 Maine dutifully established such a plan in which automobiles were inspected at central facilities, and owners were required to repair their cars and maintain them to test standards. The program was known both as "CARTEST" and as "I/M" (Inspection and Maintenance).

The testing worked poorly, and overwhelming public anger resulted in petitioning the program to referendum.{6.1 The next attempt to systematically reduce VOCs, and thereby meet the Federal 15% VOC-reduction plan was the introduction of a special gasoline (RFG) to lower automobile VOC emissions.{6.2 This is the program running today in southern Maine.

MDEP administrators offer no rationale of how their 15% Plan could help attain the ozone standard;{6.3 and, as noted above, they now suggest it will not. Even if our gasoline were 100% effective at reducing automobile VOCs, there would likely be, at best, insignificant reduction in Maine's ozone.

On July 18, 1996, EPA Environmental Specialist Robert Judge told me that ozone-reducing benefits in Maine will begin in the year 2000 when a NOx reduction of 6.8% will be required under the Clean Air Act. Judge said he had no information on the effectiveness of Maine's current VOC-reduction program to lower ozone.{6.4 This was the same as his position over a year before when I had asked for specifics on how Maine's program was working. At that time, Judge responded, "The effect on ozone in Maine is best determined by the modeling (UAM) that the MDEP is performing."{6.5 I have since checked with MDEP on this matter and am told that there is essentially no actual atmospheric modeling work being performed at MDEP and that the people who do modeling, with whom MDEP collaborates, are at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.{6.6

But with the cool summer of 1996 having produced (predictably) less ozone in Maine than in 1995, both Maine and EPA proponents of ozone control through VOC reduction were cautiously optimistic that ozone control was occurring.{6.7 They may have forgotten that ozone levels in the spring of 1996 were fairly high.{6.8

What some VOC-reduction enthusiasts may not know is that whatever improvement in ozone levels RFG might bring would commence within hours of reducing VOCs. It's now well over 2 years since the arrival of RFG here in January 1995, and the closest thing to an RFG program appraisal from State officials is, "Well, the jury's still out on RFG". Unfortunately, taxpayers who suffered from bad air in 1995 may not care how the "jury" analyzes that year's air pollution.{6.9 The air still got bad.

Because general features of the raw ozone data may be obscured by data- processing and information presentation, it is difficult for the layman to assess ozone trends in Maine. Publishing of MDEP ozone data is over a year behind; I obtained the 1995 Air Quality Report in March 1997. While members of the MDEP staff are very helpful in providing preliminary up-to-date data, the basic policy on handling and publishing of ozone data at MDEP may need review.

For instance, the news article mentioned above{6.10 cited 1995 and 1994 ozone data as suggestive that ozone wasn't so much worse in '95 than in '94. A look at the data suggests a different story. Sometimes ozone pollution is presented in terms of the number of days in which ozone exceeds the Federal standard of 120 parts per billion (ppb); but for assessing danger to public health, it would make sense to examine the number of hours ozone concentrations exceed the more prudent Maine Advisory Level of 81 ppb.{6.11 Figure 2 displays the relationships of 1995 to 1994 ozone exceedance-hours at six measurement sites in Maine. Even EPA's Region-1 chief John DeVillars cited New England air as being more unhealthy in 1995 than in 1994.6.11.1">{6.11.1 MTBE-RFG was in use in Maine throughout almost all of 1995.

MDEP is in a bind. It is managing an expensive ozone-reduction program that is at best ineffective, and at worst a threat to public health, a situation that has dictated an emphasis on public relations and a flashy MDEP computer-generated video presentation to overcome the program's flawed scientific basis. Progress in Maine's ozone reduction program is "tracked" in the Annual MDEP Air Quality Reports which carry tables of measurement data, but which present little in the way of data explanation or of ozone-reduction assessment.

Page 24 of the current [1995] MDEP Air Quality Report carries tables of second-highest annual ozone measurements that exceed the Maine health advisory level of 81 ppb; these measurements were taken at five sites in Maine. Page 25 carries more tables of percentile-arranged ozone concentrations, from the same sites, and presumably derived from the same raw data as are the tables on page 24.

One would think that two pages of such basic ozone data (and many pages of tables that follow) should merit some scientific discussion that the taxpaying public (which has paid for the data) could contemplate. There is none. For example, if one wishes to know the degree of ozone-reduction progress that followed the introduction of MTBE-RFG into Maine in early 1995, he can peruse tables such as on pages 24 and 25 and discover that the most recent figures on page 24 show ozone to have somewhat increased since 1994, and that the corresponding figures on page 25 show it to have somewhat decreased. This discovery may seem of limited value to some people, but it allows MDEP the strategic flexibility to either:

Negative effects of ozone on human beings have been measured at concentrations down to 20 ppb.{6.12


This section compiles some recent and current opinion and study on: (1) the effectiveness of gasoline oxygenate MTBE in reducing emissions from automobile engines, and (2) the effects of MTBE on the environment.

What is RFG? What are Oxygenates?

Gasoline manufactured to reduce certain automobile emissions is called reformulated gasoline (RFG). The RFG sold in Maine is said to differ from conventional (regular) gasoline in mainly three respects. Benzene makes up about 1% of RFG, and about 1.5% of regular gasoline; the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) of RFG is lower than that of regular gas;{7.1 and an oxygenate is added.

Oxygenates are chemicals containing oxygen that, when added to a fuel, supply extra oxygen to the combustion process so that fewer uncombusted hydrocarbons (HCs or VOCs) and less carbon monoxide (CO) are supposed to remain among the exhaust products. Regular gasoline, to which only an oxygenate has been added, is called oxygenated gasoline. Federal law defines reformulated gasoline as containing an oxygenate.{7.2 The oxygenate used in Maine's RFG gasoline is called MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether).{7.3 Listed as a hazardous air pollutant in the Clean Air Act,{7.4 "MTBE is now the second most made chemical in the world."{7.4.1 In the United States, it is the primary oxygenate in 84% of oxygenated gasoline.{7.4.2

It is not easy to determine the gasoline formulations actually used in Maine. In July, 1996, I asked our regional EPA representative Robert Judge what's in Maine's gasoline. "Not sure. Ask Ron Severance [at MDEP]", he answered. I asked the MDEP, the Maine Oil Dealers' Association, the Maine Petroleum Association, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the American Lung Association of Maine, and a member of Governor King's Task Force on RFG (Task Force). Nobody had the information at hand. Eventually, EPA's Bob Judge was able to provide me with EPA measurements of Portland, Maine fuels that ran approximately 11% MTBE.

Oxygen is about 18%, by weight, of MTBE. So, an 11% MTBE gasoline contains about 2% oxygen.

MDEP says it does not monitor the chemical ingredients of gasoline; officials assume that Maine RFG contains about 11% MTBE.{7.6 and that benzene is reduced from the approximately 1.5% in Maine's regular gasoline to about 1% in Maine's RFG.

Upon request, the MDEP staff provides an industry-generated gasoline specification (Material Safety Data Sheet) that bears a range of constituent concentrations such as 0-15% MTBE, 10-1170 parts per million (ppm) sulphur, and 0.1-5.18% benzene. Thus, actual composition of Maine gasolines cannot be determined from industry specifications.{7.8 Except in the ozone non- attainment areas, Maine does not know where oxygenated fuel is sold. "We have a feeling it [11% MTBE formulation] is being used in other parts of the State, but we don't regulate that", says MDEP's Scott Wilson7.9">{7.9

An unfortunate aspect of this general lack of information is that even the Governor's Task Force, appointed to study the health effects of RFG, did not know (except for MTBE) the actual differences between various RFGs and regular gasolines used for years in Maine.

RFG Effectiveness and Risks

Following the introduction of MTBE as a gasoline additive in the United States, testing of gasolines for combustion-emission products along with measurements of ambient air pollution and water pollution have taken place. This sub-section reviews some of the discoveries:

A 1992 industry report on automobile engine emissions found NOx emission levels to be higher with oxygenated, than with regular, gasoline.{8.1

Another 1992 industry report examined the effect of oxygenates on automotive emissions (primarily CO) at sea level and at 5,000 feet altitude.{8.1.1 While at high altitude some measurements showed that oxygenates lowered CO emissions, these reductions for most fuel-injected cars were small (somewhat higher for carbureted cars); and at low altitudes some measurements showed even less, or no, effect from oxygenates. More or less the same was true for the effect of oxygenates on hydrocarbon (HC -- VOC) emissions: no changes for most measurements at sea level, but with more measurements showing decreases at 5,000 feet altitude. Many measurements found NOx emission to increase with the use of oxygenates.

A 1993 related study found that "increasing MTBE [oxygenate] in gasoline raised NOx [emissions] in low aromatic fuels"; and that lowering gasoline sulphur lowered NOx [emissions]".{8.2

A 1994 EPA report found, "with MTBE-reformulated gasoline, benzene and butadiene emissions decrease, whereas formaldehyde and MTBE emissions increase, all within the context of a net decrease in hydrocarbons."{8.3

A 1995 study of two gasolines blended for use under strict California air- quality requirements{8.4 found no statistically significant differences in automotive emissions between an MTBE RFG and a non-MTBE RFG (RFG with no MTBE added) with regard to the emission of hydrocarbons, non-methane hydrocarbons, CO, NOx, and total toxics emissions. The only statistically significant difference found was that the MTBE RFG produced more formaldehyde emission than did the non-MTBE formulation. Characteristic of both of these gasolines was low sulphur content and low T90.{8.5

Cook et al (EPA) argue that atmospheric CO-reduction results from use of oxygenated fuel.{8.5.1 CO measurements from 300 sites in the United States are presented to show an average of 9% reduction of CO in 1992 in locations where oxygenated fuel is now in use, compared to places where it still isn't.

A 1994-1995 study by the State of Utah Department of Environmental Quality found that, during the months of December('94) and January('95) when 2.7% oxygen-content ethanol- and/or MTBE-oxygenated fuel was used in Utah County, the air in Utah County and neighboring Salt Lake County was found to carry 300% to 1800% more formaldehyde, 470% to 860% more acetaldehyde, 50% to 520% more CO, and 30% to 110% more NOx -- than during February('95) when no oxygenated fuel was used in either county.{8.5.2 Oxygenated fuel is part of Utah County's wintertime carbon-monoxide (CO) control strategy.

A 1996 study of ambient air in the Caldecott tunnel between Berkeley and Orinda, California finds VOC and CO emissions-per-mile are lowered, formaldehyde emissions raised, and NOx emission raised slightly by the establishment of the oxygenated fuels program.{8.6

A 1996 Federal Final-Rule modification relaxes a previously required consideration of the potential negative impact of oxygenated fuels. The previous rule had stated that, when considering an oxygen-content increase to the 2.7% maximum in a reformulated fuel, it must first be determined that "no adverse NOx [emission] impacts can be shown".{8.7 For instance, in California, the required oxygen content of gasoline had been reduced from the EPA-mandated maximum of 2.7% to "1.8 - 2.2% by weight because of concerns of possible increased NOx emissions".{8.8 Under the new rule, the maximum oxygen content has been raised to 3.2%.

The 1997 Final Report of the Auto/Oil Air Quality Improvement Research Program (AQIRP, Sustaining Members: the American Petroleum Institute, Society of Automotive Engineers, and the U.S. Council for Automotive Research) reviewed and summarized the findings of a series of studies started in 1989.{8.8.1 Among the findings are:

  1. "Lowering T90 and T50{8.8.2 in gasoline generally decreased exhaust HC across the fleets. Lowering T90 raised NOx slightly and generally reduced all measured toxics."
  2. "Reducing the sulphur content of gasoline reduced exhaust HC, CO, and NOx emissions in the two fleets in which it was tested. It also generally reduced exhaust toxics".
  3. "Decreasing gasoline RVP reduced evaporative emissions and also produced reductions in exhaust HC and CO."
  4. "Decreasing gasoline olefins increased exhaust HC and reduced NOx, and also reduced the photochemical reactivity of exhaust and evaporative emissions."
  5. "Adding oxygenates to gasoline reduced exhaust HC and CO in 1989 and earlier models, and raised NOx with low aromatic fuels; the 1993 and later model vehicles did not show any emission change. Adding oxygenates increased aldehyde and reduced benzene emissions."
  6. "Fuel composition changes which reduced the predicted ozone contribution of light-duty vehicles were:
  7. "Neither the aromatic nor the MTBE content of gasoline had a significant effect on predicted ozone. Splash blending ethanol (an oxygenate) increased ozone."

Commenting on the AQIRP Report, an Oil and Gas Journal editorial said:

The National Research Council suggests that oxygenated fuels may not contribute as much to the reduction of CO as predicted by EPA computer- modeling.{8.9 Larry G. Anderson and others{8.10 measured CO concentrations in and around Denver, Colorado and found "no significant effects of using oxygenated fuels on the ambient concentrations of CO".{8.11 "Our analysis suggests that at sites with lower concentrations at the outset, the program [oxygenated fuels] has had an impact on lowering those concentrations, although not by as much as MOBILE and AIRSHED [computer models] predicted."

"Our [analyses] ... show a decrease in CO prior to oxygenated fuel use, supporting the hypothesis that changes in the vehicle fleet composition have had a more significant impact on reducing CO pollution than the oxygenated fuel program."{8.12 "...our analysis of ambient CO data along Colorado's Front Range has found no significant effect of using oxygenated fuels on the concentration of CO during recent winters".{8.13

In April, 1997, at a CRC On-Road Vehicle Emissions Workshop, Anderson et al. reported, "We seem to be reaching a consensus that the benefits of oxygenated fuels use [for CO reduction] are typically in the range of 5-15%, not the 20-30% predicted by the early emissions modeling approach".{8.13.1

Anderson et al. have found: "Emissions test data suggests that both formaldehyde and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions increase when methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) blended fuels are used".{8.14 As for NOx automobile emissions, measurements conducted by the Colorado Department of Health find that when 11% MTBE is added, NOx is decreased 4.5% in cars without catalytic converters, and increased 4% in those having converters; emitted formaldehyde was decreased 17% in the non-catalytic-converter cars, but increased 23% in catalytic cars and increased 76% for closed-loop emission-control cars (latest models).{8.15 Regarding ambient NOx concentrations, "the trend analysis has shown no significant effect of using oxygenated fuels".{8.16 "The fuel reformulation mandated by the oxyfuels program induces higher emissions of formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, both probable human carcinogens".{8.17

The Collegium Ramazzini{8.17.1 has found:

On January 29, 1996, gasoline was discovered emanating from the ground at British Petroleum's (BP) fuel storage and transfer center #10161 (59 Main Street, South Portland, Maine) a block from the Fore River.{8.18 An early news story reported 17,000 gallons of gasoline to have leaked from a pipe with some spillover into the River.{8.19 The MDEP estimated the loss at 53,000 gallons, perhaps more, perhaps less; and the estimate of total recovered amount may have increased, or decreased, with time.{8.20 A suspected second gasoline leak of undetermined amount, about 1000 feet from the first leak, was investigated by MDEP.{8.21 As of December 1, 1996, there was no MDEP information available as to the formulations of the gasoline that leaked, nor had the commencement date of either leak been determined. By February 1997, MDEP had determined that the first leak was MTBE gasoline.

After discovery of these gasoline leaks, measurements of ground water at the spill site showed MTBE contamination far higher than for other pollutants -- as high as 4.1 million ppb. The October 17, 1996 monitoring report showed dissolved ground water pollution from six test wells to be between 23,000 ppb and 940,000 ppb of MTBE. In contrast, dissolved benzene pollution in the same wells ran between 990 and 8,700 ppb. Water from the test wells was treated in an on-site decontamination system; the effluent therefrom, containing 62,000 ppb of MTBE, was released into Rolling Mills Pond, which in turn emptied into the Fore River.{8.22

In the first of a comprehensive two-part series on MTBE, William Carlsen of the San Francisco Chronicle has explained how

Garrett et al (MDEP, and University of Maine, 1986){8.24 find that MTBE in gasoline "may increase the sum total of all dissolved gasoline components in ground water", that water contaminated with MTBE is difficult to remediate, and that activated-carbon filtration of MTBE-contaminated water is not cost- effective. For these reasons, engineers at the BP gasoline-spill site in South Portland, at least for the time being, rejected using carbon filters for removing MTBE from contaminated water and air.{8.25

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has found MTBE in 79% of shallow wells tested in Denver Colorado; in 37% of those tested in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont; in 25% of those tested in Chester County, Pennsylvania; and in 100% of those tested in northern New Jersey. Three percent of the tests showed MTBE to exceed the lower level of the EPA- recommended health advisory for MTBE. MTBE was the second most commonly detected VOC in urban wells -- chloroform being detected 4% more often. The concentrations of MTBE ranged from the minimum detectable level of .3 ppb to a high of 31,000 ppb. In shallow groundwater wells in the lower Susquehanna River Basin in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and in the Connecticut, Housatonic, and Thames River Basins, MTBE was the most commonly detected VOC.{8.26

In groundwater, MTBE has been found to degrade very little over a period of 16 months; it's fate over longer periods is uncertain.{8.27

The USGS, also, finds that "MTBE [in water] does not biodegrade easily. ... If a research investigation determines that a compound does not degrade, a half-life is not reported and the compound is simply classified as "recalcitrant". MTBE is generally reported as recalcitrant, and there are no widely accepted estimates of its half-life. ... Yeh and Novak (1995) reported that there was no degradation of MTBE in an aerobic laboratory study after more than 100 days of incubation."{8.28

... "Despite the resistance of MTBE to indigenous bacteria, biotreatment methods might be developed. Recent research has demonstrated that bacterial populations and certain pure bacterial strains, when isolated from biotreated sludges and other sources, have the ability to use MTBE as a sole carbon source (Salanitro and others, 1994; Mo and others, 1995)."{8.29

With respect to public health, the USGS has advice that should be taken seriously:

MDEP says most reported cases of water pollution in Maine involve gasoline spills; in almost all of these cases MTBE is found; in some cases, it is the only gasoline constituent measured. In Lisbon Falls, Maine, measurements of water in a test well situated less than 10 feet from a town drinking-water well found MTBE to be present at 2.8 ppb. Six ppb of MTBE has been measured in a town drinking-water well in the neighboring town of Lisbon.{8.31

But researchers have been somewhat disconcerted to also find MTBE in what they call ambient groundwater -- groundwater not near any known or suspected sources of pollution. A Geological Survey hydrologist in Trenton, NJ, Eric Everson, says the northern New Jersey sites, where MTBE was found in groundwater, were so far apart that it was "highly improbable" that a spill could have caused the contamination. Hydrologist and Chief of the National VOC Synthesis Project, John Zogorski, says that MTBE automobile emissions in the air may return to the groundwater in droplets of rain. Zogorski also notes that researchers did not expect to see MTBE in groundwater so soon. "It wasn't like we were out there trying to find it; it just showed up. The fact that MTBE showed up in roughly five years was surprising. Many environmental contaminants take longer than that."{8.32

Zogorski also wants to see research on the presence of MTBE in rivers and streams. He said he doesn't expect to find much MTBE there, but that it is a concern because much of this water is used for drinking and because researchers don't know yet how MTBE affects aquatic life.{8.33

American Waterworks Association chemist John DeBoer says:

Officials at ARCO, a primary manufacturer of MTBE, say there should be little concern given the levels of MTBE that have shown up in water samples so far.{8.36

MTBE contamination has forced discontinuance of seven of the eleven municipal wells in Santa Monica, California. One Santa Monica water-supply well, showing only 14 ppb of MTBE when first tested, rose later to 490 ppb. The City of Santa Monica is suing for damages for the MTBE pollution of its wells. John Froines, Chairman of UCLA's (University of California at Los Angeles) Department of Environmental Health Sciences, said:

"Froines faulted the USEPA for failing to assess the results of Italian research on laboratory animals, published in 1995, which made the strongest link so far between MTBE in drinking water and cancer."{8.37

"EPA officials in California and Washington declined this week to be interviewed about MTBE unless their names were withheld from print -- an unusual condition for the agency. On that basis, several EPA officials acknowledged that the agency has an incomplete knowledge of MTBE's health effects but said there are plans to review the Italian research by Cesari [sic] Maltoni, head of the Bologna Institute of Oncology. In the meantime, according to California officials, the EPA has issued a "health advisory" recommending a maximum limit of 70 ppb for MTBE in drinking water."{8.37.1 [The EPA did consider, but did not actually issue a 70 ppb advisory; but on December 8, 1997, the EPA officially lowered the maximum level of its MTBE health advisory from 200 ppb to 40 ppb. (See note U2.39.8.)]

This is an 80% reduction of the EPA advisory maximum for MTBE, but it is still 750% above the 5 ppb maximum recommended by Myron Mehlman.{8.37.2

In the Santa Clara Valley Water District (California), in 217 of 285 MTBE groundwater monitoring cases, MTBE contamination measured from 5 to 260,000 ppb.{8.37.3 Although MTBE has not yet been found in Santa Clara drinking water, Santa Clara underground-fuel-tank program supervisor James Crowley says:

MTBE has polluted town wells supplying water to the Village of Liberty, New York.{8.38

In 1995, 13 homes in Orange Lake, New York were equipped with devices to filter drinking water because wells showed levels of MTBE up to 5,800 ppb from an unknown source. There are no gasoline stations nearby.{8.39 A New York State Department of Health Study lists sites at which remediation of MTBE in drinking water has been employed. This study was prepared under cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, U.S. Public Health Service.{8.40

Tests of private wells in Tiverton, Rhode Island have found drinking water contaminated with up to 2,850 ppb of MTBE -- over 70 times the State's health advisory level of 40 ppb.

Rhode Island's Drinking Water Quality chief, Jane Swallow, says, "MTBE doesn't have acute (health) effects. It's the kind of contaminant we're all exposed to pretty much every day. ... The health effects are still being assessed. At high exposure it could cause headaches, nausea, a cough. There is some disagreement about other problems it can cause". Swallow said the effects of drinking the substance are less clear, but that the "contaminated water is considered safe for bathing as long as an exhaust fan is used during the shower or bath".

Tiverton resident Evelyn Gouveia, whose well has tested positive for MTBE, said, "They say it's safe to use for washing and bathing, but who wants to use water that smells like gasoline?" "You can smell it", said Rita Pires, another resident. Other residents complained of skin rashes they say are caused by contact with the water, smelling oil in their houses or even seeing an oily sheen.{8.41

On Castle Hayne Road in Wilmington, North Carolina, MTBE and benzene have penetrated downward through one aquifer and into another under a neighborhood of residential dwellings which obtain drinking water from wells that draw from both aquifers. The top of the deeper aquifer is about 50 feet below ground level. Benzene and MTBE concentrations at the bottom of the upper aquifer have been measured at 470 and 1600 ppb respectively. During 1995, the North Carolina Department of Health and Natural Resources along with the Conoco Oil Company have provided bottled water and carbon water-filters to residences.{8.42

On August 25, 1997, a federal jury ruled that the Conoco Company acted willfully, negligently, and fraudulently and contaminated the well water of 178 residents on Castle Hayne Road. The jury awarded $9.5 million to the residents to be used for continued medical monitoring and health care.{8.42.1 In the wake of this judgment, it was reported that:

A spill of MTBE gasoline at the Somersworth, New Hampshire Cumberland Farms store has contaminated the water, ground, and air to the extent that Peggy McLin experiences grogginess from being in her home.{8.43

In July 1993 the Alaska Health Department and the Department of Environmental Conservation expressed concern that EPA protocols for MTBE health studies "do not answer the ultimate question of whether MTBE poses health risks or whether there is a net health benefit in using MTBE to lower CO emissions in Alaska".{8.44.2

MDEP claims: "Very little is known about air toxics in Maine and the concentrations to which people are being exposed; an enhanced inventory is necessary to define all sources of hazardous air pollutants. ...Five monitoring sites targeting hazardous air pollutants were established in November and December 1995 in the greater Portland area."{8.48 The 1995 MDEP Air Quality Report lists 36 hazardous air-pollutants to have been monitored in 1996 and 1997 at these sites; though 11% MTBE gasoline has been in use in Maine for about two years, neither MTBE nor formaldehyde is on this MDEP list.{8.49 Said Maine State Toxicologist Andrew E. Smith: "We are not aware of any Maine ambient air monitoring data for MTBE."{8.50

EPA, David Korotney

In the highly charged atmosphere of automobile-emissions discourse here in Maine, it's often difficult to sort fact from argument. I decided to start from the beginning and find out what EPA engineers have to say about comparative emission characteristics of gasolines and how those numbers are derived.

At the recommendation of Robert Judge, I called David Korotney, a chemical and mechanical engineer with the EPA in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Korotney reviewed for me the procedure by which the EPA derives emission characteristics of combusted fuels, through the use of EPA's Complex Model. This computer model was originally derived from laboratory emissions-testing of fuels having various formulations. Into this model is entered a basic formulation, and the model predicts emission characteristics of that fuel.

Because some claim that oxygenated gasoline lowers NOx levels, I asked Korotney about 1992 test data{9.1 that show increasing NOx emission with increasing oxygenate concentration; and the 1995 test data{9.2 that find no statistically significant lowering of NOx or CO from the use of oxygenates. He explained that some differences between test results and computer predictions are because the Clean Air Act (CAA) provides leeway to set the ratio of high- to low-mileage automobiles fed into the Complex Model. He said that whether NOx emissions increase or decrease with addition of oxygenates can depend on the mileage of the vehicle. He said it was not unreasonable to raise the question whether a given reformulated gasoline would pass the "zero increase" NOx test{9.3 required by the CAA.

I asked about emissions of the five statutory toxics (benzene, 1,3 butadiene, polycyclic organic matter, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde){9.4 and the suitability of the word "aggregate" (of toxic emissions) which is defined as the sum-by-weight of toxic emissions from a motor vehicle. He said my question involves consideration of the comparative potency of individual toxics, and that within the EPA there are no potency ratings that are considered really trustworthy (formaldehyde, for instance, as an individual toxic that has some level of "potency" relative to, say, benzene).

We discussed the above-referenced 1995 industry report comparing the properties of different formulations of gasoline.{9.5 He was familiar with the formulations and discussed the low sulphur and the low Reid-vapor- pressures (RVP) of two of the gasolines, noting that they were in line with Phase-II California fuel formulations. ("Phase-II" fuel formulations address environmental regulation goals for the Year 2000.{9.6)

For these two Phase-II low-sulphur/low RVP gasolines, a major difference was that one of the gasolines contained 11% MTBE, and the other had none. Korotney provided me with Complex Model predictions for the combustion emissions for these fuels. The model predicts both fuels would perform better than Maine's MTBE-RFG with respect to emissions of VOCs, benzene, total toxics, CO and NOx. Furthermore, the non-MTBE Phase-II fuel also performed better than Maine RFG on formaldehyde, and performed better than the Phase-II MTBE fuel regarding formaldehyde and NOx reduction. The MTBE formulations increase formaldehyde emission over that from conventional gasoline.{9.7

Regarding octane ratings of gasoline, I asked Korotney about the effects of adjusting the amounts of aromatics or oxygenates. Taking Maine's RFG gasoline as an example, he estimated that a 1/2% reduction in benzene might reduce gasoline octane approximately 1/10 point (insignificant), and that an 11% increase in MTBE would increase octane about 2 points. [Thus benzene and MTBE have approximately equivalent octane-enhancing power.]

Government Studies

In this section are my comments on six U.S. Government studies of oxygenated fuels and on a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPH&E) automobile emissions report: three CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) studies{9.7.1, an EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) report{9.8, an OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy) draft report{9.9, an NRC (National Research Council) report{9.10, and the CDPH&E report{9.11. The NRC Report reviews the OSTP Draft, part of which is a study by the Health Effects Institute.{9.11.1 The final edition of the OSTP study was published in June 1997.{9.12

The 1992-1993 CDC Study in Fairbanks, Alaska was conducted jointly with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. It established a correlation between MTBE in workplace air and MTBE concentrations in workers' blood. Key health complaints: "headache, eye irritation, burning of the nose and throat, nausea or vomiting, cough, dizziness, or a sensation of spaciness or disorientation" are reported and are related to MTBE blood concentrations, but the authors found the relationship to be "not statistically significant", and that because of small sample size, "we may not have had adequate power to detect relationships if they were present".

When 15% MTBE was in use in Alaska, measured workplace air exposure-levels ran from 6 to 800 ppb with a median level of 100 ppb. The key health complaints dropped significantly when use of the 15% MTBE winter gasoline program was abandoned and replaced with 0.4% MTBE regular gasoline and 5% MTBE premium gasoline.{9.12.1

The 1993 CDC Study in Stamford, Connecticut was conducted jointly with the State of Connecticut and the City of Stamford. The 1993 CDC Study in Albany New York was conducted jointly with the New York State Department of Health. These two studies were similar to that done in Alaska; but they were also different in that Stamford used 15% MTBE for control of carbon monoxide, whereas the median level of MTBE in samples of Albany's gasoline was less than 2% (used for octane enhancement only).

As in Alaska, MTBE blood levels were correlated with air exposure-levels in both Stamford and Albany; the levels were higher in Stamford than in Albany. In Stamford, the air exposure-levels ran from 1 ppb to 12,040 ppb, with the median value 150 ppb. In Albany, the measured MTBE air exposure-levels ran from nondetectable (less than 5 ppb) to 11 ppb; the median MTBE sample level was "nondetectable".

In both Stamford and Albany, Alaska-type health symptoms were reported. In Stamford the symptoms were "significantly" correlated with MTBE blood levels. In Albany there was a slight but not significant increase in health complaints with high MTBE-exposure, compared to lower-exposure, groups. The Stamford Study concluded that the "possible relationship between blood MTBE levels and health symptoms needs further clarification".{9.12.2

The 1996 EPA Report "Oxyfuels Information Needs", poses the question "What is the net benefit or risk to the environment and public health resulting from a change from conventional gasoline to oxyfuels?" The answers: "Although the objectives of the oxygenated gasoline and reformulated gasoline programs are quite explicit in seeking to reduce CO, ozone, and air toxic pollutants, a thorough examination of the successes or failures of the oxyfuel programs is needed to answer the question just posed" (p.20). "Ambient monitoring is needed to ascertain which toxic and criteria air-pollutants are increased or decreased, and the extent of such changes, as a function of a change from conventional gasolines to oxyfuels. Empirical information of this type is essential to validating the effectiveness of the oxyfuel programs" (p.21).

After asserting that "the effects of MTBE-gasoline mixtures have not been investigated under controlled inhalation conditions" (p.23), the EPA concludes: "The available information on conventional gasolines and neat oxygenates (viz., MTBE) is not sufficient to support quantitative, comparative assessments of the health and environmental benefits and risks of oxyfuels in relation to conventional fuels" (p.28).

Though the EPA supports use of RFG,{9.13 it seems not to have put its final imprimatur on oxygenated fuels. [The above page-number references are to pages in the 1996 EPA Report.]

Prepared under the direction of the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy, the 1996 OSTP Draft Report, "Interagency Assessment of Potential Health Risks Associated with Oxygenated Gasoline", concluded that "chronic non-cancer health effects would not likely occur at an environmental or occupational exposure to MTBE." Nevertheless, the OSTP Report found:

  1. "human exposure data to MTBE are too limited for a quantitative estimate of the full range and distribution of exposure to MTBE among the general population" (p.159).
  2. "Oxygenates ... increase the emission of formaldehyde from use of MTBE (p.155).
  3. "Experimental studies indicate that MTBE is carcinogenic in rats and mice... tertiary butyl alcohol and formaldehyde, the primary metabolites of MTBE biotransformation, are also carcinogenic in animals. ... While there are no studies on the carcinogenicity of MTBE in humans, based on animal data there is sufficient evidence to conclude that MTBE is either possibly or probably a human carcinogen. However, estimates of human risk from MTBE contain large uncertainties in both human exposure and cancer potency" (p.159).
  4. "The interpretation of any health risks associated with the addition of MTBE to gasoline requires a comparison to the health risks associated with conventional gasoline. ... comparative risks between oxygenated and non- oxygenated gasolines have not been established" (p.159-60).
  5. "Emissions of nitrogen oxides are not changed significantly by low concentrations of fuel oxygenates, but some studies indicate increased nitrogen oxide emissions [NOx] with oxygenate concentrations greater than 2% by weight oxygen" (p.156).
  6. "There is not sufficient data on fuel oxygenates to establish water quality criteria for the protection of aquatic life" (p.158).
  7. MTBE is "the most widely used motor vehicle oxygenate in the United States" (p.153-54).

[The page numbers for items 1 through 6 above are taken from the Executive Summary of the Draft OSTP Report that is included as pages 151-160 of the NRC Report (see note 9.9.]

The National Research Council established a Committee to review the OSTP Draft Report. The Committee's product is the 1996 NRC Report. It breaks no new scientific ground, but does provide insight into what U.S. Government scientific advisers are thinking. It concluded that existing information on MTBE and oxygenated fuels does not show oxygenated fuels likely to pose a substantial health risk -- but that until existing information is supplemented with more studies, "no definitive statements can be made regarding these health-risk issues." The findings:

The National Research Council press release announcing this 1996 NRC Report was headlined, "AIR QUALITY AND HEALTH EFFECTS OF WINTER GASOLINE ADDITIVES NEED FURTHER STUDY".{10.1 [The page-number references in items (a) through (i) above are NRC-Report page numbers.]

An earlier (1991) NRC study had found that "despite the major regulatory and pollution-control programs of the past 20 years, efforts to attain the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone largely have failed".{10.2

In response to the 1996 NRC Report which recommended further specific studies of oxyfuels,{11.1, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Report compiled emission measurements from about 47,000 1982 and newer motor vehicles (cars and light trucks) that failed the metropolitan Denver emissions test.{11.2 The study covered the period of July 1995 through June 1996; oxygenated fuel was in use there for the months of November through February. Because this study involved only one set of vehicles (no controls), there was no way to distinguish with certainty fuel-specific emissions effects from those perhaps caused by seasonal or temperature changes. The study credited oxygenated gasoline with substantial reduction of CO and HCs. It accomplished this by citing reductions between mid-summer (no oxygenate) and mid-winter (oxygenate) for CO and HC emissions of 28% and 13% respectively.

The differences between measured emissions for the month prior to and the month following fuel changeover from conventional to oxygenated fuel and vice versa (October/November and February/March) are likely (but not certain) to be less influenced by seasonal effects than are the differences between mid- summer and mid-winter measurements. At these fuel changeover times, CO emissions were observed to be 7 to 9% lower, and HCs 0 to 3% lower -- with oxygenated fuel.

Not initially provided to the news media, or to myself, were the NOx measurements that were part of the Study. These figures, at fuel changeover times, show NOx emissions to increase between 7 and 21% with the use of oxygenated fuel, with a 25% NOx increase from mid summer to mid winter.{11.3

The Final Edition (1997) of the OSTP Report{11.3.1 has some valuable observations:

  1. "Oxyfuel effects on vehicle CO emissions are uncertain at temperatures below 50 degrees F. ...Some studies report an increase in CO emission with oxyfuels at low temperatures." (p.1.48) "No existing EPA model is capable of accurately predicting oxyfuel effects at temperatures below about 50 degrees F." (p.1.49) "The benefits of oxyfuels on ambient air quality have not been proven in cold climate areas." (p.1.50)
  2. "Fuel oxygenates decrease vehicle emissions of the toxics, benzene and 1,3 butadiene. Fuel oxygenates increase emissions of toxic aldehydes. Ethanol and ETBE (ethyl tertiary butyl ether) increase acetaldehyde emissions by large amounts. MTBE increases formaldehyde emissions." (p.1.48)
  3. CO concentrations in ambient air have been declining in recent years. "...it is reasonable to attribute the decline to improvements in vehicle technology in response to the EPA mandated standards in vehicle emissions. The decline started well before the period of oxyfuel usage, which generally began in 1992 and has been limited mostly to winter months." (p.1.37)
  4. "The most striking difference between the effects found in some of the other emissions studies reviewed here compared to the Complex Model results (EPA predictions) concerns ... an increase in NOx emission with [addition of] fuel oxygenate and the model predicts no effect or a small decrease in NOx emission. ...The Reformulated Gasoline Program ... requires by statute that the NOx emission can not be increased by RFG." (p.1.29)

This Final OSTP Report carries a letter of introduction from John Gibbons, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. That "Dear Colleague" letter gives a hint of the current level of confidence enjoyed by fuel oxygenates among federal officials who let MTBE out of the laboratory before it was adequately tested:

EPA Chemical Consultant

An EPA chemical consultant has told me, "I don't think oxygenates are required in Maine. My personal opinion is that there should have been no oxygenate requirement. Oxygenates were instituted to benefit special interests. Maine could have designed its own gasoline program,{11.4 its own fuel, but that would have taken more work than to accept alternatives from an already prepared list. The United States Secretary of Environmental Protection objected to oxygenates, but dropped her objection because it became obvious that it would be politically difficult."

Bad science is just part of the problem; bad politics is most of it.

MTBE Won't Clean Up Ozone in Maine

It is important to recognize that with respect to cleaning up the air, arguments about industry's favorite gasoline formulations are somewhat academic. The lives of people who suffer from ozone may not be noticeably improved unless we lower ozone 50% or so.

The lowering of ozone concentration by any of Maine's current VOC-reduction strategies might be 5% at best, but probably less than 1%.{11.5 The reason the Boston Office of the EPA is not willing to predict efficacy for Maine's VOC-reduction therapy on ozone is because it has no scientific basis to do so. EPA also probably knows that the difference in ozone-reduction effectiveness between Maine's conventional gasoline and a better fuel (California- formulated, low sulphur) is insignificant. New England EPA Director John DeVillars has told me that my estimates of the effectiveness of Maine's RFG program are "about right".{11.6

And the Ozone Transport Assessment Group (OTAG) has "voted 32-5 for a package of recommendations to the EPA, including for the first time [underline mine] a proposed ceiling on emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx)."{12.1 [OTAG is an association of states (of which Maine is a member) that deliberates on drifting (transportation of) air pollution.]

As I have noted, the ineffectiveness of VOC-reduction strategy in Maine has been widely known for some time. A handout, provided to Governor King's RFG- stakeholders advisory group, presented graphs (Figure 3) that show the predicted impact of "fuel options" on both VOC and NOx automobile emissions: namely that, nationwide, a VOC-reduction strategy won't keep up with CAA requirements after 1999; and, most important, NOx, which should be reduced in Maine (in order to reduce ozone) will not be lowered by the oxygenated gasoline used in Maine (Federal RFG).{12.2 RFG gasoline may be able to lower NOx if it is a California-like formula -- low sulphur fuel, but without MTBE. To maximize NOx reduction, oxygenate may have to be abandoned. In any case, a California-like formula will produce less NOx emission than Maine's oxygenated fuel.

The COMMITTEE should bear in mind that much of the reduction of pollutants claimed by oxygenate and RFG advocates are what one would expect from dilution of the gasoline with 11% to 15% MTBE and lowering the concentration of benzene until its concentration is 1%. "Dilution" to achieve emissions reduction is legitimate as long as energy-content change and possible new toxics in the emissions such as MTBE and formaldehyde are evaluated. According to the EPA, the much-touted reduction of benzene emissions in RFG is due, not to MTBE, but to the reduction of benzene in the fuel formula; and with 15%-MTBE fuels, formaldehyde emissions increase between 27% and 200%, depending on the type of vehicle emission-controls.{12.3 The Complex Model predicts that NOx will be increased by the addition of MTBE.{12.4

The COMMITTEE may also wish to examine the common practice of gasoline octane-enhancement through the use of MTBE. Garrett et al have observed:

No Statutory Requirement for Oxygenated Fuel in Maine

According to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP), oxygenated gasolines are not required by the Clean Air Act to be used in Maine.{12.6 "Reformulated gasoline is not, and never has been a Federal requirement for Maine. The McKernan Administration `opted in' to the Federal reformulated gasoline program on June 26, 1991 through the opt-in provisions in Section 211(k)(6) of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. ... the Department [MDEP, as of July 13, 1995] continues to support the Federal reformulated fuels program and believes it offers significant VOC and air-toxics reduction benefits."{13.1 [Underline, JCH]

Evidence cited above argues this "belief" to be questionable. But MDEP officials are still promoting a scientifically unjustifiable program that benefits financially the oxyfuels industry in particular, and polluting industry in general. By passing the blame for bad air on to ordinary taxpayers and owners of automobiles, the State proclaims its support for clean air and creates an image of the State as a champion of good environmental politics.

A most cruel adage promoted by the State, as well as by many well-meaning citizens, is that through CARTEST and oxygenated RFG, each citizen "can do his part". What some folks who repeat this mantra may not realize is that polluters are convincing others to spend money in a less-than-effective effort to clean up bad air. This takes the pressure off polluters so that polluters can avoid doing their part. And bad air stays bad, or gets worse.

Federal Law: Oxygenates Not Required in RFG

Although Federal Law defines reformulated gasoline as containing an oxygenate, it is not a requirement if addition of the oxygenate raises the emission of ozone-producing NOx over the NOx-emission level of a federally- defined baseline gasoline.{13.1.1

The 1997 Final Report by the oil and automobile manufacturers on their Air Quality Improvement Program finds that, when added to low-aromatic fuels, oxygenates increase NOx emissions. [Low-aromatic fuels lower the combustion emissions of toxic gases.]{13.2

In the face of such evidence it is legitimate to raise the question of why the USEPA has not restricted the use of oxygenates like MTBE in gasoline. Such questions have been raised, but the EPA has avoided a direct answer by arguing the questionable assertion that the EPA computer model predicts overall lowered NOx emissions from the model's fleet of automobiles.{13.3 The real answer may have less to do with science and public health -- than with politics.

The preponderance of evidence argues against MTBE's ability to reduce ozone; because MTBE can increase NOx, MTBE may actually be raising the level of ozone.

The COMMITTEE has heard many witnesses explain why they feel they and others are suffering, often severely, from oxygenated RFG.{13.4 Peter Joseph is one of them. Professor of Radiologic Physics at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, he reports an "explosive" rise of asthma among children in the Philadelphia area. Joseph says his investigations show the need for serious epidemiological studies on asthma. He feels that gasoline oxygenate MTBE and its atmospheric reaction products should be studied as possible contributing causes of asthma.{13.5

So if oxygenated fuel is not required, why are we using it? The answer is that Maine officials rushed to adopt an MTBE fuel without sufficient thought. The COMMITTEE hearings have demonstrated this. What our officials might consider at this time would be to simply go to a cleaner gasoline -- without oxygenates. Who would object to the advantages of reformulating a gasoline with low sulphur, low vapor pressure, less benzene, and no oxygenate -- to produce less NOx, and less formaldehyde? RFG is controversial, not because it's reformulated, but because it comes packaged with an oxygenate -- MTBE.

SECTION V -- The Politics of Oxygenated Fuels and Emissions Inspection

Section V introduces some of the individual and institutional players in the present "clean air" debate which has divided environmentalists, pitted public health advocates against one another, and joined health officials with industrial lobbyists in support of questionable public policy.

MDEP Politics

MDEP's claim that "Reformulated gasoline yields aggregate toxic emission levels well below non-reformulated fuels"{13.6 is misleading in view of industry test results,{13.7 and in view of what is needed to clean up ozone in Maine.

In May 1995, the Governor's Task Force Study on the Health Effects of Reformulated Gasoline published its report. It contained inaccurate information about the efficacy of VOC control of ozone in Maine.

Within about a month's time, the MDEP changed captions on some (not all) of its previously misleading pie charts to reflect the fact that MDEP considers only man-made VOCs when it talks about VOC-reduction goals.{13.8 But still, MDEP did not graph figures on actual (total) VOC emissions that affect ozone production. On June 28, 1995, when MDEP presented a new pie chart to the Board of Environmental Protection at a public hearing,{13.9 the chart was once again missing proper notation; the misinformation about the State's VOC program had become a well-established falsehood.

While the COMMITTEE was hearing testimony from citizens on the health effects of oxygenated fuel, MDEP Commissioner Edward O. Sullivan began action to limit public participation in an ongoing study of the possible expansion of mandatory RFG use into non-RFG areas of the State.{13.10 (the study had been ordered by the Legislature.{13.11) Sullivan contacted the USEPA on this matter,{13.12 and he established a list of eight "affected parties", a roster that excluded the Health Bureau, the COMMITTEE, and persons or organizations who have questioned the effectiveness of RFG or who oppose its use. This select group of "stakeholders" included only RFG advocates.{13.13

Although the American Lung Association of Maine (ALAM) has supported RFG as an ozone-reduction strategy, ALAM is understandably concerned at the considerable public testimony about health effects attributed to the oxygenate MTBE. Consequently, the ALAM informed MDEP that it does "not understand the logic behind Sullivan's selection of "affected parties"" and that "the American Lung Association of Maine will not be a part of any formal meeting on this subject that excludes... affected parties who have voiced concern".{13.14

The ALAM also asked that the MDEP "ensure that the intended pollution reductions from reformulated gasoline are actually being achieved" and that the State Bureau of Health continue "research into the health impacts of RFG on both healthy and sensitive populations." {13.15

The ALAM letter to MDEP seemed to have an effect on Sullivan. Within a few days, Sullivan revised the list of eight affected parties by adding the names of Julian Holmes and Ralph Stevens.{13.16 A consensus of participants at the first and, to date, only gathering of the study panel (November 4, 1996) found the proposal to use oxygenated fuel statewide to be contrary to current interpretation of the Clean Air Act.{13.17

Next, Sullivan drafted recommendations to the State Legislature the general thrust of which was to create an image of RFG as beneficial to the cause of reducing air-pollution in Maine, a position the study panel had not endorsed. In fact, several panel members had suggested that the value of oxygenated fuel in reducing air pollution be established prior to discussions of expanding its use in Maine.{13.18 As a study-panel member, I prepared a critique of the Sullivan draft.{13.19

Commissioner Sullivan's confidence in oxygenated fuel seems to be based on overly optimistic claims about Maine's air-pollution reduction program. In a public statement to the Select Committee (COMMITTEE) on July 25, 1996{13.20 he:

* stated the contribution of highway mobile sources to Maine's VOC inventory as being 45%. (p.1, par.2)

* characterized Maine's participation in the RFG program as being in response to a "basic" requirement of the Clean Air Act (CAA). (p.2, par.3)

* failed to inform the COMMITTEE that Maine's use of oxygenated fuel was not the only way to avoid "Federal sanctions" (p.2, par.4).{14.2

* cited VOCs as an important factor in ozone control "in urbanized areas such as southern Maine". (p.3, par.2)

* said, "RFG benefits outweighed questions and costs".{14.3

* said he "looked at a non-MTBE alternative and was disappointed in the results".{14.5

* maintained that RFG reduces NOx, a claim he says is "per USEPA". (p.3, par.3)

* said that a significant benefit of RFG is that it is "the single largest element of our [emissions-control] plan ...". [underlining, JCH] (p.3, par.3)

* cited the Governor's Task Force on the Health Effects of Reformulated Gasoline as justification for the RFG program. (p.4, last par.)

* suggested "enhanced auto emissions testing" [CARTEST] as an alternative to the RFG program. (p.5, par.3)

* said, "Governor King and I feel that it [use of RFG] should be limited for now to non-attainment areas, but I'd prefer a single fuel". When questioned by Senator Harriman as to whether RFG should be used statewide, Sullivan responded, "We have a very high biogenics contribution to VOCs in northern part of State, so VOC control will have no benefit". Sullivan also said that in Vermont, "they are prohibited from using RFG because they are in attainment".

* said, in response to a question from Rep. Glenys Lovett about possibly higher formaldehyde emissions from MTBE gasoline, "That's debatable".

* claimed MTBE is not as significant a concern as benzene. He said MTBE is 92 times as soluble in water as toluene, 300 times as soluble as xylene, 27 times as soluble as benzene, and that MTBE degrades more slowly than other gasoline components.{15.7

I later asked Sullivan for a source for his statement that MTBE was not as significant a health concern as benzene. He said he relied on Phil Haines (then Acting Director, Maine Health Bureau) for this information.{15.10 In February 1996, Sullivan said, "I think there are people who are hypersensitive to RFG, as there are people who are sensitive and allergic to penicillin or other substances".{15.11 Does Sullivan believe that mandatory exposure to MTBE is analogous to voluntary use of penicillin?]

In response to a question (from Representative Lovett) about testing for atmospheric toxics, Sullivan's Chief of Mobile Sources, Ron Severance, told the COMMITTEE, "I'll defer to others -- we don't do testing; we rely on the RFG Hotline -- ARCO".{15.12

In May, 1995, Sullivan told a Congressional Committee "...that certain provisions of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 do not make sense for Maine -- that they are grounded in neither good science nor common sense". Sullivan criticized the EPA's "rigid position" on CARTEST's "intrusive, inequitable, and potentially absolute [VOC-reduction] testing technology".{15.13 But in the next breath, Sullivan praised EPA's "flexibility and commitment" to help Maine implement oxygenated fuel.{15.14

Sullivan's performance on air-pollution should be examined in the light of the recent disclosure of (unreported) high levels of (coPCB) water-pollution in Maine rivers.{16.1 The Augusta Capital Weekly reported that, subsequent to requests from paper companies, MDEP Commissioner Sullivan "removed those portions of the state's dioxin monitoring report that discussed fish contamination from co-planar polychlorinated biphenyls, a dioxin-related compound". These discoveries could have been published in May, 1996; Sullivan planned not to publish the test results until later. In a letter to me dated September 18, 1996, Sullivan accused the Capital Weekly of publishing false information about the MDEP role in this matter. Sullivan's letter asserts that an April 1996 MDEP publication "contained a full disclosure of elevated levels of coplanar PCBs".

But that publication presents only 1994 data and does not deal with the levels of total PCBs measured in 1995 that resulted in the 1996 Capital Weekly disclosures. Industrial pressure on the MDEP is not confined to matters of dirty air. Dirty water is also high-level politics.

Maine Bureau of Health -- Task Force Study of MTBE

A milestone in the State's program to control ozone with oxygenated fuel was the Governor's Task Force Study on the health effects of RFG fuel that uses MTBE as its oxygenate.{16.2 I have testified that the Task Force Study may have served well the politics of accommodation; but that as a scientific argument, it is lacking.{16.3

The ostensible purpose of the Study was to evaluate health complaints linked to RFG, and to compare the possible health effects of RFG gasoline with those of conventional gasoline. Neither of these goals was accomplished. This is not to say the conclusions are faulty; it is to say, however, that the Study does not justify them.

The credulity of the Task Force accosts the reader of the Study on its very Introduction Page. That the Task Force would introduce itself by proclaiming its own "high levels of credibility and expertise" (p.9, par.3) was perhaps an attempt to counterbalance the generally ineffectual report that followed -- a study completed in less than two months, and commenced under a three-week deadline.{16.4

Opening with an unqualified acclaim for the benefits of RFG gasoline and its ability to reduce ozone-producing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the Study misstates official Maine VOC figures by telling us that "almost 60%" of the (ozone producing) VOCs from seven southern counties come from mobile sources there, and that "while some ozone is transported from elsewhere, a larger amount is also formed within our borders". (p.11)

In contrast to these Task Force assertions, the official MDEP Inventory of VOCs shows that, in the seven southern counties cited, only 16% of VOCs are from mobile sources (not "almost 60%"), and only 12% are from highway mobile sources{17.1; the MDEP Annual Report on Air Quality finds "the majority" of ozone in Maine comes from outside the State;{17.2 and the Commissioner of Environmental Protection says the figure is 80%.{17.3

The possibility of its errors being considered inadvertent was dashed by the Task Force capping off its discussion of ozone and VOCs with a full-page VOC pie-chart. It showed motor vehicles as responsible for 58% of the VOC "emissions pie" for the state's seven southern counties! (p.12)

The Study ignores the MDEP finding that Maine is probably a Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)-limited region rather than VOC-limited.{17.4 And there is no mention of the possible health consequence of choosing the wrong pollutant (ozone precursor) on which to expend our time and money.

Although on page 7 of the Study the Task Force was mildly critical of computer modeling, this same task force may have been less critical of one model when the result was "acceptable". This modeling technique was used by the EPA to compare the amounts of combustion products (pollutants) produced by regular gasoline and oxygenated RFG, and the modeling results appear in the table on page 13 of the Study. The modeling predicts that oxygenated RFG produces fewer pollutants, including NOx, when compared to regular gasoline. A table identical to that on page 13 appears on an information sheet published by the Oxygenated-Fuels Association.{17.5

The Clean Air Act requires that RFG gasoline have no more NOx emission than regular gasoline, and some industry measurements of oxygenated-RFG combustion suggest that NOx emission therefrom may be higher than from some non- oxygenated gasoline.{17.6 There is no discussion of such measurements in the Task Force Study.

Benzene and formaldehyde are carcinogens, but formaldehyde does not appear in the pollutant table (p.13), even though the Task Force reports that formaldehyde concentration in automobile exhaust may be increased by the MTBE oxygenate. (p.16) The current OSHA standard 15-minute exposure limit for formaldehyde is 2 ppm, while that for benzene is 5 ppm.{17.7

The Task Force cites no data that might not support its blanket assertion on emissions: "Adding MTBE decreases tailpipe emissions of carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene, and VOCs."(p.16) For instance, one recent industry comparison-testing of non-MTBE against MTBE fuel finds evidence of MTBE gasoline inferiority, but finds it to be statistically insignificant.{17.8

The above-cited pollutant table (p.13) claims that use of RFG lowers particulate matter in automotive emissions. The RFG HOTLINE makes the same claim.{17.8.1 I asked EPA's Robert Judge whether he could direct me to measurements to confirm this claim. He referred me to Lester Wyborney at the EPA National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Wyborney said that as far as he was aware, EPA had not made such measurements, that EPA did not have the resources to measure MTBE decomposition products or toxics that might be associated with "neurological or acute effects" in humans, but that EPA was in the process of evaluating measurements of MTBE itself in automotive exhaust.

Nor was the RFG HOTLINE able to find data on measurements of particulate pollutant emissions from RFG versus conventional fuels.{17.9 HOTLINE Director Charlene Garland told me that the industry claim for particulate reduction with RFG was based on predictions utilizing the EPA PART-5 Model (particulates) and the EPA Complex Model for automotive gaseous emissions.

R. Neal Olson (Utah State Department of Environmental Quality) measured air-borne particulates in Salt Lake and Utah Counties during the winter of 1994-5. That winter, Salt Lake County, a CO-afflicted oxygenated-fuel county, had obtained an EPA waiver to use non-oxygenated gasoline for two months -- because of a "reported increase of particulates associated with oxygenate use during the winter of 1992-3". Olson had prepared an experiment to measure airborne particulates during two periods -- one when oxygenated gasoline was in use, and the other when it was not. The results were non-conclusive, compromised by uncooperative weather; but there was some increase of particulates when oxygenates were used.{17.10 Olson believes we should take particulate pollution seriously. He has authored a study that uses conventional equipment to measure particulate pollution under EPA's newly proposed rule on fine particulates.{17.11

The Health Effects Institute (HEI) has issued a sobering comparison: that the estimated cancer threat from particulate air-pollution in a single city (Philadelphia) is greater than the cancer threat from benzene air-pollution in the entire United States.{17.12 The COMMITTEE may wish to consider the relative importance of benzene pollution so heavily emphasized by advocates of oxygenated RFG. Dr. Ted Shettler, of Physicians for Social Responsibility, says that although the number of premature deaths triggered by particulate pollution seems "compelling, it's important to recognize that there's a much larger population that is experiencing health effects resulting from this exposure".{17.13 The ALAM child-asthma map of Maine{17.14 should be kept in mind, not just for the pollutant "at hand", be it benzene, MTBE, ozone, or particulates, but as a warning to all of us that there are many pollutants around and that some of them may be serious!

The above detour into particulate pollution illustrates one aspect of the superficiality of the Task Force Study. Another example of lack of serious intellectual involvement is the Task Force citing "difficulty" in assessing complaints of health problems attributed to RFG. The reason:

This statement should be compared with a subsequent declaration:

The Task Force cannot have it both ways and expect only instant symptoms from RFG, while conceding delayed symptoms from regular gasoline. [underlining, JCH]

The Task Force declares that studies of kidney tumors in male rats "have been criticized for lack of controls comparing MTBE to gasoline". (p.18, par.1) No explanation of, or citation for, this criticism is identified.

The Task Force suggests that MTBE is a "low potency potential carcinogen" compared to "higher potency carcinogens" that MTBE dilutes when it is added to gasoline -- but adds that "no animal data is available to test this hypothesis". (p.18)

The Study lists MTBE effects or lack of such on animals, but finds "there is no human data available on the chronic effects of MTBE ... or on human cancer risk from MTBE", and that "there is no data on the toxicity of MTBE in combination with the other constituents in gasoline". (p.17) In other words, we haven't compared the relative toxic effects of MTBE in gasoline and its combustion products with those of non-MTBE gasoline.

On the very day the Task Force was appointed, Robert E. Wages, President of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers International Union (AFL-CIO), wrote to Oxygenated Fuels Association Director Fred Craft:

I have tried (unsuccessfully) to understand what is germane about the concluding observation of the Task Force Summary of Cancer Risk which reads:

Regarding the 48 responses to a Task Force survey of Maine residents, the Task Force comments: "The results clearly demonstrate the existence of a human response to an exposure to RFG containing methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) among the consumers submitting the Oxygenated Fuel Health Surveys, but there is no comparison with symptoms for regular gasoline exposure". (p.34)

The Task Force Study addresses MTBE pollution of groundwater in a single brief paragraph which:

(a) cites U.S. Geological Survey measurements in Colorado that found MTBE in groundwater at 80% of the thirty measurement sites. These measurements are characterized as a "limited experience which cannot be used to draw any useful conclusions for Maine ..." (p.24) and

(b) claims MTBE "has become a reliable marker" of gasoline contamination from leaking underground storage tanks. (p.24)

The Colorado measurements are all but dismissed with the parting advice that "more" MTBE surveillance and monitoring is needed in Maine; there is no discussion of current MTBE-monitoring of Maine's waters. Nor does the Task Force explain how MTBE serves as a "reliable marker" of underground gasoline leakage.

In fact, MTBE is soluble in water; and unlike other constituents of gasoline, MTBE does not adsorb on soil particles; and according to the Santa Clara Valley (California) Water District, MTBE can separate itself from a gasoline spill and become a "detached plume" of pure MTBE and groundwater. "And unlike solvents that more than a decade ago were detected in ground water, MTBE leaves no telltale sign on the surface of the earth, making it harder to find."{18.2 Thus, in contrast to the Maine Task Force claim, MTBE can be a particularly unreliable marker of gasoline leakage.

Directly counter to the Task Force claim that MTBE is a "reliable marker" of gasoline contamination is a published paper by three geologists (at the University of Maine and at the MDEP) which states:

It is worthy of note that the Santa Clara Valley Water District (Santa Clara County) takes MTBE contamination very seriously. The Water District recommends that, because of MTBE's behavior in ground water, "all groundwater cases with MTBE be considered emergency sites", and that "it is imperative to investigate, delineate, and remediate these plumes very promptly, before it becomes impossible to determine the origin ... Gasoline additives, particularly Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE), pose a serious threat to groundwater resources."{18.3

Bureau of Health Advice on MTBE: "Get Someone Else to Pump Your Gas"

The Task Force Study condones the use of MTBE-RFG in Maine, and advises people who don't like it to obtain fuel "at service stations where gasoline can be pumped for the customer" (p.25). Although some might question a Health Bureau policy that recommends not exposing oneself to a toxic substance if other persons are willing, or paid, to expose themselves instead, nonetheless, some final recommendations of the Task Force are worthy of consideration:

  1. Vapor recovery of gasoline fumes at service stations.
  2. Sampling of air for formaldehyde at service stations.
  3. More study of MTBE health effects.
  4. Evaluation of automobile performance on MTBE-RFG. Increased surveillance for MTBE in Maine groundwater.

The very last page (p.40) of the Study lists "Personal Contacts by Task Force Members". Excluding EPA and state officials, eight persons are named. Seven of them are listed with affiliations; one, Myron Mehlman, is not. Of the eight, the Task Force identified only three as having ARCO affiliation. Thus, from the Task Force identification of its non-government contacts, one might reasonably assume that most of those contacts were not affiliated with ARCO. Actually 7 out of 8 (Mehlman the exception) have been ARCO affiliated.

All told, the Task Force Report, which promotes oxygenated RFG as having "a modest potential for long-term positive health impacts" (p.7) is short of rudimentary scientific discipline.

Myron A. Mehlman

There is an aspect of the Task Force Report of which the COMMITTEE should be particularly aware, namely that the therein unidentified Professor Myron Mehlman, the non-ARCO-affiliated "contact" (p.40), is something of a folk-hero among clean-air advocates. As North American Secretary of the Collegium Ramazzini, Mehlman is a signatory to the September 1993 Collegium declaration that endorsed the limiting of workplace benzene exposure to .1 ppm TLV-TWA [Threshold Limit Value - Time Weighted Average] in air, a value recommended in 1990 by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.{19.1

As Director of Toxicology at the Mobil Oil Corporation, Mehlman participated in a 1989 symposium on environmental health issues and risk assessment held in Japan, where he learned that Mobil-owned affiliate MSKK was producing gasoline with a benzene level of 5.7%. Mehlman insisted that Mobil lower the benzene level. Mobil said it would cost too much and terminated Mehlman's employment for cause; Mehlman sued. He has won a $3.4 million judgment against Mobil for his financial losses as well as a $3.5 million punitive judgment. The appeals court concluded that "the punitive damages award was a "necessary deterrent" to prevent companies like Mobil from silencing employees who object to conduct that has a great potential for harm to many people".{19.2

Mehlman is Adjunct Professor of Environmental and Community Medicine, University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, NJ. Mehlman has held positions as: Chief of Biochemical Toxicology, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Special Assistant for Toxicology and Environmental Affairs, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health; Associate Professor of Biochemistry, Rutgers University; Professor of Biochemistry, Nebraska College of Medicine; and Director of Toxicology, Mobil Oil Corporation. He is a Fellow of the American College of Toxicology, of which he was Founder and President. He is Editor of The Journal of Toxicology and Industrial Health, and an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology. He is a visiting scientist at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

In testimony before the New Jersey Senate, Mehlman has asked that use of MTBE and other such additives be prohibited in gasoline until they have been adequately tested.{19.3 Mehlman argues MTBE cancers are similar to those caused by exposures to comparable doses of benzene, vinyl chloride, and 1,3- butadiene.{19.4 He has petitioned USEPA Secretary Carol Browner to classify MTBE as a probable human carcinogen, and asked for the lowering of the health- advisory level for MTBE in drinking water to 5 ppb -- the same as for benzene.{19.5 The Collegium Ramazzini has determined that "exposure to MTBE in gasoline should be avoided in order to prevent needless illnesses of both consumers and workers... and urges that the toxicity of MTBE be fully and vigorously examined".{19.6

In 1978 Mehlman's claim that cigarettes cause cancer{19.7 was criticized by Tobacco Institute Vice President William Kloepfer who claimed that the tobacco industry is "confounded with constant charges of carcinogenicity of our products. I think it is unbecoming for our defenses to be mounted in the field of conjecture, rather than facts".{20.1

Some MTBE advocates have raised questions about the relevancy of certain animal research to the carcinogenic potential of MTBE.{20.2 At the request of Ralph Stevens of South Berwick, Mehlman prepared a response to the September 24, 1996 testimony of Elihu York to the COMMITTEE. It is a monograph on animal research, cancer, and MTBE,{20.3 which the COMMITTEE may find useful in its review of questions raised. He has since completed a more extensive treatise on MTBE which he submitted in support of his request that the EPA lower the health advisory level for MTBE in water.{20.4

Task Force Members

Philip Haines, Acting Director of the Maine Bureau of Health, told the COMMITTEE on July 25, 1996 that he'd "rather deal with MTBE than benzene ... that benzene is "60 times as potent" as MTBE".{20.5 If one replaces Bruce Hunter's figure of "10" with Haines' figure of "60"{20.6 (in the arithmetic on page 37 above), might MTBE still be 5 times as dangerous as benzene?

To a question from Representative Glenys Lovett about possibly higher formaldehyde emissions from MTBE gasoline, Haines responded, "It's the exposure that counts".{20.7

If it's "exposure", then it's reasonable to ask why Haines did not discuss items such as the following that are relevant to Rep. Lovett's question:

  1. The Wisconsin and the Caldicott Tunnel studies where MTBE and benzene were found to have the same order-of-magnitude concentrations in the air.{20.8
  2. The Wisconsin Study gasoline stations where MTBE levels were 40% to 1850% higher than benzene.{20.9
  3. The January 1996 gasoline spill site in South Portland, where in July, 1996, the month Haines addressed the COMMITTEE, the ground water concentrations of dissolved MTBE were running 60 to 150 times higher than the benzene concentrations.{20.10
  4. That for chemical spills, EPA standards require reporting an MTBE spill greater than 1 pound; or a benzene spill greater than 10 pounds.{20.11
  5. That the NIOSH TWA exposure limit for benzene in air is 100 ppb, while for formaldehyde it is 16 ppb.{20.12

Haines also discussed the National Research Council Report on Oxygenated Motor Vehicle Fuels, but did not discuss the Report's specific findings that:

Nor do I recall Haines informing the COMMITTEE that "most of the information on MTBE health effects has come from a program of testing conducted under a 1987 negotiated, enforceable, consent agreement between EPA and the Oxygenated Fuels Association (OFA), which provided several studies on the inhalation toxicity of MTBE in laboratory animals."{20.13

In a telephone conversation, Haines told me he believed the statements about Maine VOCs "were true at the time" the Task Force Study was written, but he did not wish to meet with me and discuss the matter further.{20.14 Haines did not seem to understand the basics of ozone-production chemistry, or the limitations of VOC-control to reduce ozone in Maine. A letter from Haines following our conversation suggests less than a vital involvement in the whole issue of oxygenated fuels and ozone reduction.{20.15

The COMMITTEE should note that with regard to disclosure of high-levels of PCBs in Maine rivers,{20.16 Haines did not plan to publish the test results until later. The Kennebec Journal reports Haines as saying, "We believe the health protections will be well taken care of" with a public health advisory about the human health risk -- likely to be issued in December [1996].{20.17

Haines then issued a press release setting back the publication date until spring 1997.{20.18 It reads, "the [health] advisories are being re-emphasized at this time in light of the recent data. Cancer risk has also been considered. The incremental cancer risk resulting from consumption of fish for the period between now and the start of the 1997 open water fishing season is negligible."

With respect to the Presumpscot, Salmon Falls, and Sebasticook rivers, the current Health Bureau advisory is for mercury in lakes and ponds -- not for PCBs in rivers.{21.1 I asked two members of the Health Bureau staff why the Bureau considered the existing warning to be adequate. The answer I got in each case was that a single warning should be sufficient.

That response is like warning swimmers against sharks without telling them where the sharks are, and without warning them at all about the equally dangerous undertow. I have been unable to find out from the Health Bureau where warnings are posted on the above-named rivers.

The Capital Weekly newspaper editorialized about this matter as follows:


And with respect to Health Bureau warnings for mercury pollution, a four- part series of articles on "The Mercury Menace" by the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram reported:

It may be of interest to the COMMITTEE that on December 27, 1996, I asked Haines' successor as Health Bureau Chief, Dora Mills, and MDEP Commissioner, Edward Sullivan, what has been done to implement the RFG Task Force recommendation for "increased surveillance" of MTBE in ground water.{21.3 I had been informed separately by two top Health Bureau officials that, respectively, "nothing" and "absolutely nothing" have been done about the Task Force recommendation for increased MTBE surveillance. An MDEP official had observed, "at this stage it is unlikely that we will monitor any surface waters or shallow wells [for MTBE] in the state".{21.3.1

On January 23, 1997 I sent a letter to Sullivan reminding him of my request of December 27.{21.4 Sullivan prepared a response to me, dated January 3 and mailed on January 24, but did not address my question about MDEP response to the Task Force recommendation.{21.5 On January 27 I wrote to Sullivan inviting him again to comment on my request of December 27. His response of February 7 implied that MDEP itself made no response to the Task Force recommendation, but that the Health Bureau had provided me (JCH) with "the state's response".{21.6 That response is described in the paragraph below.

Mills' response to my letter was dated January 28 and was signed by Philip Haines.{21.7 It described an MTBE water-measurement program that "should begin this spring" -- about two years after the Task Force (on which Haines served), made its recommendation to "increase surveillance" for MTBE. I wrote to Mills asking "what kind of action you feel the Task Force had in mind when it recommended increased MTBE surveillance, ... how the Bureau's proposed "increased" MTBE surveillance differs from the level of that being carried out today, ... and what action the Health Bureau may have taken on the six other Task Force recommendations".{21.8 By letter of February 12, Mills described the MTBE surveillance program (see Haines, note 21.7 above) to begin this spring.{21.9

Task Force member Lee Ann Baggot told me that at concentrations to which humans are subjected, there is low risk of MTBE carcinogenicity. She said results of animal cancer studies cannot always be extrapolated to humans, and that there were yet to be conducted good double-blind studies with humans on the carcinogenicity of MTBE. I asked if she felt such a study could be engineered, and she replied that "it could be done, but it would be expensive". I asked if she knew about Myron Mehlman, and she said she had contacted him and that "he seemed to be doing MTBE as a hobby".{21.10

Richard Greves was a Task Force member from the MDEP. I asked him if the Task Force had specifically discussed the scientific viewpoint that Maine's 15% VOC reduction program (using RFG as its "cornerstone") was not going to do much toward meeting the federal requirement to reduce ozone. He said he did not know of my report{21.11 until after he had left the Task Force. Apparently no one brought it to the attention of the Task Force, or even informed it that Maine's VOC program has little chance of reducing ozone.

I mentioned to Greves the statement on page 11 of the Task Force Study: "Mobile source emissions of VOCs account for almost 60% of all the VOCs emitted in the Maine Counties with the most serious air pollution problems ...". I asked why the Task Force Report included a pie chart (page 12) that reported mobile sources to account for 58% of Maine VOC emissions in the seven southern counties -- when the actual number, calculated from MDEP tables, was 16%.{21.12 Greves responded that the Report was not deliberately misleading because it was customary at MDEP to refer to man-made VOCs only.

Greves said, "reformulated gas was the paradigm we were working with. We did not discuss anything other than oxygenated gasoline. We looked at the Mobile 5 model and we compared the MTBE gasoline to regular gasoline."

Greves said he was unaware that any questions were raised as to whether there were alternatives to MTBE or to oxygenates. He assumed that the oxygenate solution was simply provided to the Task Force by the EPA -- and by the Governor.{22.1

Greves remarked that the representatives to the Task Force from Coloradans for Clean Air seemed to be "well funded". I asked if anyone on the Task Force asked who the "Coloradans" were; and Greves said, "They were just like a lobby in Maine -- like the NRCM [Natural Resources Council of Maine] or the Lung Association".

Task Force member Ronald Deprez is President of the Public Health Resource Group, an organization that provides hospitals and health providers with research on services needed in communities. I asked him if the Task Force had considered formulations of gasolines other than the one chosen by the State. He answered that there were no studies by the Task Force on other than the gasoline "which was before us ... no research was done on anything else."{22.2

Health Bureau toxicologist and Task Force member Philip Kemp told me that, except for Myron Mehlman and Barbara Charnes, all industry and association consultants ("Contacts") listed in the Task Force Report were associated with ARCO! [In fact, Charnes is also.{22.2.1] I asked if the Task Force studied any gasoline formulation other than one using MTBE. He said he "understood that MDEP did" but that the Task Force discussed only the MTBE formulation which was proposed to the Task Force by MDEP. Kemp says Task Force contacts Jonathan Borak and David Gray each visited with the Task Force here in Maine, that they represented ARCO, and that Borak and Gray, not the Task Force, initiated the first contacts.{22.3

Lani Graham, then Director of the Bureau of Health, was chair of the Task Force. In a letter to Ralph Stevens of South Berwick, Graham was dismissive of concerns about MTBE safety.{22.4

But oddly enough, Graham's RFG Task Force had cited in its Study (p.22) a finding, by investigators at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), that blood samples from residents of Fairbanks, Alaska showed elevated levels of MTBE during the period when oxygenated fuel was tried in Fairbanks.{22.5 In a letter to the Alaska Commissioner of Environmental Protection, CDC scientist Ruth Etzel was less dismissive than Graham of MTBE safety. Etzel summarized the CDC findings:

Alaska Division of Public Health epidemiologist, John Middaugh, wrote to Science Magazine in response to a report that the USEPA had dismissed MTBE as a possible cause of illness in Alaska. Middaugh said:

"More research on MTBE is needed as more than 100 million Americans are being exposed to MTBE and its combustion products. Unfortunately, federal funding for further study has not been made available to CDC or to the Alaska Division of Public Health, leaving the EPA, and state and local communities with scant data about the use of MTBE ..."{22.6.1

Alaska no longer uses MTBE-oxygenated fuel; Lani Graham's Task Force recommended keeping it in Maine, and Graham told constituent Ralph Stevens that MTBE could be useful as "an indicator compound for other toxic hydrocarbons in drinking water sources in the event of leaking gasoline tanks or other sources".{22.6.2

All this raises the question as to how Maine public-health officials view their responsibility for investigating the health aspects of a product amidst political pressures to give that product a passing grade. For example, the Task Force Study helps dispel concern for MTBE by the following:

"Medically, large doses of pure MTBE are used for gallstone dissolution therapy; 90% of a typical MTBE dose is excreted by the lungs or kidneys within 2 hours after treatment with MTBE infused into the gallbladder."{22.7

On the other hand, the CDC study mentioned above found that MTBE has side effects not mentioned in the Task Force Study:

Nor did the Task Force Study inform us of the "experimental" aspect of MTBE gallstone therapy. The FDA "halted experimental use of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE)" in 1989. "Nine of 29 patients had suffered "adverse effects" to the experimental infusions", and in 1988 one patient died in a Philadelphia hospital "after being given an experimental gallstone treatment involving infusion of a solvent that also is used as a gasoline additive. Her family had been unaware the treatment was experimental."{22.8.1

In samples taken from one patient after gallstone dissolution treatment:

Following the COMMITTEE hearing on July 25, 1996, during the month of August, I tried without success to reach by telephone Task Force Chair Lani Graham, and Task Force Members Philip Haines and Terry Shahata.{22.9 Later I reached Task Force members Greg Bogdan and Philip Kemp who were involved with the study of possible asthma/RFG links. That work is discussed later on.

Task Force Contacts

David Gray informed me he ran the risk-assessment section of the Minnesota Health Department. He was there 16 years before he decided to try private work. He is now project manager for Health and Environment for Sciences International.{22.10 While he was working at SI on a project for ARCO in 1995, he twice visited Maine "to carry ARCO's message to the people of Maine and to get as much information to the state [Maine] toxicologist as I could." As part of this work, he even did a TV interview here. He had forgotten the name of his primary contact at the Maine Task Force, but he remembered that he (Gray) had made the initial approach. Gray has been also engaged in "helping with the publication of a number of (yet unpublished) ARCO papers being submitted to the Journal of Risk Analysis".{22.11 A Gray colleague at Sciences International, whom I had reached before talking with Gray, told me Gray "was heavily involved with the [Maine] Task Force".{22.12

Task Force Contact and ARCO consultant Jonathan Borak, Chairman of Environmental Medicine at the Jonathan B. Borak Company, told me that the journal Risk Analysis has agreed to publish a large number of papers on gasoline oxygenates, perhaps in a special issue. He said the Oxygenated Fuels Association is aggressively pursuing the subject [of oxygenate hazards or benefits] and is trying to establish a record of this research in the peer- reviewed literature.

Borak's MTBE article, submitted to Risk Analysis [Journal], and listed in an Oxygenated Fuels Association bibliography on MTBE, is financed by contract with the Oxygenated Fuels Association.{23.1 I asked about the papers listed therein (about half) that were yet unpublished. He said he knew nothing about the sponsorship of any paper but his own. Borak is an advocate for the use of oxygenates; he says the animal research on MTBE by Maltoni et al is not good, and believes we should get rid of cigarettes and old cars.{23.2

It is interesting that the Task Force listed oxyfuels representative, and Task Force contact, Scott Baker{23.3 as affiliated with the EA Engineering, Sciences, and Technology Company (no oxyfuels identification) -- and found it appropriate to list Myron Mehlman as the only Task Force "contact" with no identification or affiliation at all. Mehlman opposes the use of MTBE in gasoline. Scott Baker is an oxyfuel hired spokesman;{23.4 and representing ARCO, he contacted Maine's Task force.{23.5

Baker's testimony at the July 25, 1996 COMMITTEE hearing utilized nineteen viewgraphs, only four of which were relevant to ozone reduction through the use of oxygenated RFG in Maine. One of the four, Viewgraph #19 (neither documented, or referenced) asserts: "All of the scientific evidence indicates that MTBE is safe...". Viewgraph #8 presents a sourced but undocumented implication that RFG lowered ozone in the Mid-Atlantic Region in 1995. Viewgraph #17 tells us, "MTBE is unlikely to be a human carcinogen under low- exposure conditions" and that "Mechanisms by which cancer occurs in animals are species-specific (i.e., not related to humans)" -- a perplexing statement indeed in view of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, World Health Organization) position on this matter:

Baker presented the Committee with a 59-page Oxygenated Fuels Association guide on MTBE{23.6 which argues that MTBE is "not hazardous under conditions of intended use" (p.3 of guide); that MTBE "has been used medically to dissolve gallstones" (p.3); that RFG reduces ozone by 1% to 2% (p.6), and that RFG costs customers 6 to 8 cents more per gallon (p.36). Of particular interest is the bibliography: "A Representative Sample of Scientific Studies and Other Resource Documents on MTBE" (p.56-59); of the 34 studies listed, only 8 were published in journals, and 17 were listed as yet unpublished (most being submitted to [the Journal of] Risk Analysis).{23.6.1 It appears that some of the unpublished papers in the OFA list are of oxyfuel industry sponsorship.{23.7 On this matter, Baker has not returned my telephone calls to his office.

Baker's MTBE guide also claims (p.2), "The most effective approach for further improving air quality is further reduction in toxic emissions from motor vehicles". This claim should be compared with the findings of Carnegie Mellon University's Henry Piehler et al who, for instance, found that to remove ozone-generating NOx from motor vehicle exhaust costs over five times more than to remove it from industry smokestacks.{23.8

Baker told the COMMITTEE, "MTBE is one of the most studied chemicals around". Baker's bravado is reminiscent of Dow Chemical Company Chairman Earle Barnes' response to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Albany (a Dow stockholder) which was concerned about Agent Orange and had asked Barnes "what steps, if any, is Dow Chemical taking to eliminate or minimize risks related to this product?" In response, Barnes claimed, "there is no product that we manufacture that we have more toxicology and health data on than 2,4,5-T, and we consider it extremely safe".{23.9 [2,4,5-T and 2,4-D are the active ingredients in Agent Orange; 2,4,5-T carries the contaminant Dioxin; in 1983, the EPA banned 2,4,5-T.{23.10]

Barbara Charnes is Executive Director of Coloradans for Clean Air (CCA).{24.1 She and a colleague from CCA visited the Task Force in Maine. "I do a lot of road shows ... to promote clean air strategies, we support [I/M and reformulated fuels]", says Charnes. "The bulk of science comes down against" those who claim I/M and reformulated gasoline aren't doing the job. I asked who her supportive scientists are, and was told they are "mostly employed by the State". I asked if she was aware of peer-reviewed articles supporting the effectiveness of I/M. On the spur of the moment, she wasn't.

I asked who funds CCA. She said, "organizational grants, petroleum companies, manufacturers of oxygenates, the Department of Energy, corporate grants, and individual members." Who invited her to make a CCA presentation to Maine? "I think it was the Clean Fuels Development Coalition,{24.2 a Washington, DC area firm with membership that includes auto makers, oxygenate manufacturers, and natural gas people."

Does ARCO support your work? "Oh yeah" [yes]; so does Archer Daniels Midland, the National Corn-Growers Association, the natural gas industry, and some universities." Does CCA have literature on the safety aspects of MTBE? "A ton of it". Regarding cancer research on MTBE, she said, "tumors in animals are not tumors humans get". "There are no complaints in Colorado any longer about oxygenates. We don't even notice the smell [MTBE] any more."

CCA is listed in the OFA MTBE guide as an organization "that can help you better understand the RFG issues".

Charnes publishes the newsletter "On a Clear Day". Two articles in the July 1996 issue are written by Cal Hodge, Technical Committee Chairman of the Oxygenated Fuels Association. The lead article, "The Benefits of Reformulated Gasoline with Oxygenates" is from the National RFG Hotline, also listed in the OFA guide.

Oxygenated Fuels Association

Although not reported by the Task Force as a Contact, John J. Kneiss is Director of Health and Products Stewardship for the Oxygenated Fuels Association located in Arlington, Virginia.{24.3 Among other companies, Kneiss represents ARCO, the largest of many manufacturers of MTBE in the Country who, all together, have a total production capacity of about 270,000 barrels of MTBE a day. Kneiss did not know who finances the other three RFG- associated firms located in Arlington{24.4 -- firms listed in the OFA guide,{24.5 the same guide that Scott Baker presented to the COMMITTEE on July 25, 1996.

Kneiss could not reveal who is sponsoring the unpublished papers listed in the Oxygenated Fuels Association guide. But he said Scott Baker's firm (EA Engineering, Science, and Technology Inc.) coordinated contacting and providing information to the various authors, and that this work was probably done under ARCO contract.

Kneiss himself, employed at the time by the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association, was an author of one of those unpublished papers.{24.7 Kneiss says co-author, W. C. Daughtry was employed by Exxon. Kneiss recommended that I contact Joe Piernock at ARCO{24.8 for more information on the affiliations of authors of the papers.

Piernock lives in suburban Philadelphia and is a member of the Southwest Pennsylvania Ozone Stakeholders Working Group that meets in Pittsburgh.{24.9 He is in charge of government and public affairs at ARCO. He says that ARCO went to prestigious places like Yale University to seek out the experts on the subject of MTBE and that ARCO contracted with a Washington DC firm to pull together existing knowledge in a series of 17 papers to be published by the journal, Risk Analysis. I asked Piernock if he knew how much ARCO spent to finance the Risk Analysis papers. He responded, "A lot of money -- I hesitate to say".{25.1

The American Automobile Manufacturers Association (AAMA)

Both the cover and page 1 of an AAMA brochure distributed by MDEP are headed, "Cleaner Gasoline Has Come to Your Part of the Country"{25.2. Page 1 features a graph that "shows" vehicle tail pipe emissions to have been reduced over 90% -- the implication being that oxygenated RFG has been primarily responsible for the accomplishment.

One who is satisfied with this representation may not get to page 3 where we are told that "[oxygenated] RFG produces 15-17 percent less pollution than conventional gasoline" (instead of the 90% reduction on page 1). It appears that avoiding responsibility for motor vehicle pollution could be an advantage for the AAMA.

Wisconsin Study

I inquired of the Regional USEPA office in Boston how the EPA responds to critics of MTBE gasoline. I was sent a copy of the "Wisconsin Study" on oxygenated RFG {25.3 based on surveys of Chicago, Milwaukee and greater Wisconsin residents. Page 8 of the Wisconsin Study is a public announcement from its peer reviewers who claim, among other things, that the study does "not support a conclusion that exposure to RFG is associated with widespread or serious acute adverse health effects."{25.4 This announcement is titled "Consensus Statements".

But the authors of this EPA-funded{25.5 RFG Study failed to attach thereto the vigorous dissent, from its major conclusion, by a member of its own peer- review committee.{25.6 Neither the Study nor the Consensus Statements even revealed the existence of this dissent.

Kenneth Rudo

The dissent was submitted by North Carolina State Toxicologist Dr. Kenneth Rudo, who could not support the "consensus-authored" denial that oxygenated RFG is associated with widespread health effects. The Study listed Rudo as a peer reviewer, but it carried no indication that Rudo disagreed with an important part of the "consensus" -- a part in which fuel producers and the USEPA have profound interests.

Subsequently, Wisconsin Study Chairman Henry Anderson revised the Study (page 7) noting dissent from the "consensus".{25.7 Dissenter Rudo says that at the Wisconsin Study review committee meeting was an industry consultant, who along with the EPA representative, were "very aggressive and who pushed the discussion in a direction it should not have gone".{25.8

Kenneth Rudo published a review of MTBE carcinogenicity which concludes:

Based on this evidence, North Carolina classifies MTBE as a B2 probable human carcinogen.{26.1

At the invitation of Wisconsin Study Committee Chairman Henry Anderson, Rudo published a detailed critique of that Study.{26.2 He found significant shortcomings:

  1. Failure to consider adequately the demographics of the Chicago and Milwaukee communities.
  2. Substantial differences in Chicago and Milwaukee survey-response rates.
  3. Differing interpretation of survey questions.
  4. Unknown gasoline composition differences (MTBE and Ethanol).
  5. Lack of gasoline-exposure data.

Rudo concludes: "Thus it can be stated that RFG may have been responsible for widespread health effects in Milwaukee compared to greater Wisconsin and that the conclusions put forward by DHSS [Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services] are inaccurate". (Page 466)

On October 12, 1995 the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission discontinued the use of MTBE as a gasoline oxygenate:

  1. The Department of Health and Natural Resources (DEHNR) found that MTBE was clearly not responsible for lowering CO levels over the three-year period of the program, and that the consistent downward trend in CO levels over the past 19 years had been primarily due to newer vehicles having lower emissions. The DEHNR went on to say that if a future decision were made to reinstate an oxygenated fuel program in North Carolina, "consideration should be given to substituting ethanol for MTBE to offset increased carcinogenic risk posed by MTBE".
  2. "DEHNR concluded that MTBE poses a potential public health risk without any concurrent public health benefit in North Carolina."{26.2.1

Maine Health Bureau Asthma Study

On July 25, 1996, the Maine Bureau of Health presented to the COMMITTEE a draft of its study of asthma hospitalization trends when RFG arrived in Maine.{26.3 It concludes that the number of hospitalizations for asthma did not increase when RFG was introduced into several Maine counties.

In assessing this claim, one should examine the Study's graphs of monthly asthma-hospitalizations. Immediately apparent is the substantial month-to- month variation over the 2-1/2 years of the Study. This, in itself, makes it somewhat difficult to discover trends.

Oxygenated RFG was introduced within a few week's time around January 1, 1995.{26.4 To infer a health trend in that time period might involve additional information and some sophisticated reasoning. There should have been discussion in the Study of the possible causes for the wide monthly variations in asthma hospitalizations and the possible causes of the increase in asthma among Maine school children reported by the American Lung Association of Maine.{26.5

Looking over the raw data provided to me by Health Bureau Epidemiologist Greg Bogdan, I concentrated on the figures from the first six months of 1994 and from the same period in 1995.

We find that the number of hospital admissions for people between the ages of 0 and 44, who live in counties where RFG was introduced, increased after the appearance of RFG. This trend is detectable for hospital admissions in the 0- to 14-year age-group (+11%); and (using standard tests for statistical significance{26.6 which take into account month-to-month variations noted above) is a statistically significant +21% for the 15- to 44-year group.{27.1

With low statistical significance, admissions of 45- to 64-year-olds (in the RFG-use area) decreased (-4%); in the non-RFG-area, admissions rose (+13%). In the over-64-year group for both the RFG and the non-RFG areas, admissions decreased (-18% and -14% respectively), but with low statistical significance.

So interestingly enough, some statistically significant (ICD9 493 asthma) data in this Report shows an increase of hospital admissions in the RFG areas when RFG was introduced.{27.2

Now regarding statistical significance and the equally important concept of causal significance, it is important to understand that statistical significance, in this case, is useful if it ultimately contributes to finding a cause -- or a lack of cause. Although the Health Bureau figures showing increase in hospitalizations for the first six months of 1995, for people between 15 and 44 years of age, are statistically significant, the connection to RFG is not certain -- for reasons such as:

  1. The data base itself is limited.
  2. There is no discussion in the Report of historical annual variations in hospitalizations for asthma.
  3. There is no discussion of the expected onset times for symptoms of sensitivity to chemicals in RFG or in RFG exhaust.{27.3

Furthermore there is no discussion in the Report about developing or seeking existing data that may be particularly relevant to RFG, or data that may not involve hospitalizations.

For instance, why should it not be expected that people suffering from headaches, skin irritation, or respiratory problems would go to a doctor's office instead of a hospital? How many cases of DDT poisoning went to local hospitals? How many cases of dioxin poisoning went to local hospitals? Did Maine hospital visits rise with introduction of DDT, with Dioxin, with Carbon Tetrachloride, Trichlorethylene, with VELPAR, with Thalidomide, Kepone, Mirex, PCB's, Dieldrin, Benzene, Chlordane, Heptachlor, Tris, DBCP, Endrin, Toxaphene, or when gasoline appeared in Maine wells?

So what can Maine do about a chemical that might threaten public health? Answer: In 1995, when herbicide VELPAR was being found in Maine wells, Maine appointed a prominent VELPAR advocate as Commissioner of Agriculture;{27.5 and it appointed as Commissioner of Conservation{28.1 an International Paper Company official who oversaw forestry pesticide and herbicide spraying!

Robert Judge

Robert Judge is an Environmental Specialist at the EPA New England Office in Boston. He has been particularly helpful when I have needed a reference to the Clean Air Act, an understanding of its EPA interpretation, an EPA source of technical information, or the information itself.

In talking with Judge, I have come to believe that EPA is concerned mainly with "enforcing" federal law rather than finding a scientifically valid way to clean up Maine's air. This is not to be critical of Judge; it's just a fact of life at EPA.

For instance, in Judge's shop, there doesn't seem to be anyone who has a working familiarity with alternatives to MTBE fuels, or alternatives to fuel programs themselves, that could be used in Maine to both avoid the MTBE controversy and to do better at cleaning up Maine's ozone pollution. Robert Judge is EPA's ambassador who is sent to tell the Legislature to either reduce automobile VOCs or have federal sanctions leveled against Maine{28.2 [regardless of whether or not our VOC program significantly reduces ozone pollution].

It would be nice, for instance, to be able to chat with someone at the EPA about Rudolf Gunnerman's A-21 fuel (naptha-water mix){28.3 -- or about measurements of increased NOx emissions in oxygenated fuels{28.4 -- or about the fact that lowering the sulphur content of gasoline lowers significantly the emissions of NOx, CO, and VOCs.{28.5

It is my experience that, not unlike many EPA air pollution efforts, our "local" EPA (Boston Office) is dangerously dependent on computer modeling for the "facts" about our atmospheric environment. For instance, pollution measurements made at the Universities of Colorado, Denver, and Minnesota show automobile-emissions testing programs in the Denver and Minneapolis/St. Paul areas falling short of expectations for air-quality improvement.{28.6 The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) disseminated an analysis{28.7 of the Minnesota study, but in my opinion this EPA critique is more angry than objective, and does not meet standards of peer-reviewed, scientific journalism. The Minnesota authors responded to each EPA point of contention.{28.8

Judge says he is aware of no current efforts at EPA to bring about a modification in the CAA's current VOC-reduction requirement that seems so ill- suited to Maine.{29.1

I think in some respects Judge is typical of many public officials in the RFG camp who have come to "know" useful things about MTBE. Judge says "MTBE is a substitute for bad things like benzene and lead .... It also lowers sulphur in exhaust". He also feels that Cesare Maltoni, who has found MTBE to be carcinogenic in animals{29.2, "has been refuted extensively". When I asked Judge who had done so, he could cite only the Maine Task Force Report.

The COMMITTEE should be aware that Cesare Maltoni{29.3 and his colleagues at the Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences, Bologna, Italy, were the first to engage in "a systematic approach to evaluating the carcinogenicity of gasoline with the experimental studies on benzene that began in the mid-1970s (Maltoni and Scarnato, 1977, 1979; Maltoni et al., 1982, 1983, 1985, 1989; Huff, 1986).{29.4 "The results of these studies, which demonstrated that benzene was a strong multipotential carcinogen, were immediately correlated to gasoline, since benzene is a major gasoline component."{29.5

Judge confirms that "there is no requirement in the Clean Air Act for oxygenates in Maine, and that there will be no sanctions if Maine uses no oxygenates. When asked about other fuel formulations without oxygenates, he responded, "The sky's the limit", and added that Maine's choice could have been a matter of cost. I asked if it cost more to leave an oxygenate out of RFG. He had no comment.

I asked Judge if he is aware of measurements of ambient air quality (as opposed to computer modeling) that would justify EPA's reliance on either I/M CARTEST programs or the use of RFG in Maine to reduce ozone. On the spur of the moment, he did not have an answer.{29.6

But in my dead-reckoning attempts to navigate a very bureaucratic USEPA, Robert Judge has always provided straightforward guidance to important official information without which this book would have been uncomfortably speculative about the role of this nation's environmental protection agency in a society where environmental ravaging is "world class" sport.

Chuck Freed

Following the COMMITTEE hearing on July 25, 1996, the COMMITTEE acquired a set of viewgraphs prepared by EPA Director of Fuels and Energy, Chuck Freed, for presentation at an EPA clean-air workshop on August 7, 1996. The Freed presentation exemplifies a current practice of "science by viewgraph" -- bold black letters, bullet statements, and -- alas, minimal science.{29.7

Freed's (EPA) viewgraphs tell us:

[Figure 4 shows the EPA presentation of NRC-Report quotations (vg.27 and vg.28), along with the unexpurgated NRC language which carries a more precautionary message than do the EPA viewgraphs.]

Several of the consecutively numbered Freed viewgraphs were missing, and Freed's office promptly faxed them to me. Freed explained that he initially sent only the viewgraphs used in a particular lecture. One of the initially missing viewgraphs (No.18) listed the gasoline components of greatest importance in reducing VOCs, NOx, and Toxics. Sulphur-reduction topped the list for effective emission control, and oxygenates were deemed significant for reducing toxics only.

Downstream Alternatives Inc.

Robert E. Reynolds, President of Downstream Alternatives Inc., was a witness before the COMMITTEE.{30.2 Subsequent to his testimony, in a document prepared by himself,{30.3 he provided the COMMITTEE with a comparison of the emission characteristics of two different fuels: Phase-I, and Phase-II California gasolines. A test report provided by Reynolds shows the Phase-II gasoline having a lower RVP, a higher initial boiling point, lower levels of olefins, aromatics, and benzene; much lower sulphur; and 11% MTBE. The Phase- I gasoline has no MTBE.{30.4

Reynolds says "the benefits of the RFG [Phase-II fuel] are unquestionable." But he presents the COMMITTEE with an apples vs. oranges argument (Phase-I vs. Phase-II gasoline); he says Phase-II gasoline has less NOx emission, but we are not told that it would probably be even less without the MTBE oxygenate; we are not told that improved automotive VOC reduction will not substantially reduce ozone in Maine; we are not told that there are many ways to formulate gasoline, and that oxygenates are not a necessary component of the mix. Reynolds' test report tells us that automobile "speed seems to have a greater effect on exhaust emissions than does fuel type" (p.3), and that Phase-II gasoline has statistically insignificant CO-reduction improvement over Phase-I gasoline (p.1). Once again, we are left asking the basic question: What are oxygenates doing for Maine?

Reynolds' company has published Changes in Gasoline II, a guide to the use of oxygenated fuels. The publication was funded "through an educational grant from the Renewable Fuels Foundation".{31.1 According to the Washington DC office of the Renewable Fuels Association, the Foundation is part of the Association operation in Washington.{31.2 Enhanced Automobile Inspection for Portland Area, or Statewide, by 1999

During January 1997, the EPA was still meeting with Maine "stakeholders" (the Emission Testing Advisory Group (ETAG)), to establish some form of enhanced automobile inspection procedures for the Portland area.{31.3 Negotiations proceeded under a newly modified EPA rule that would allow urban areas of greater than 100,000 population to adopt automobile emission inspection procedures simpler than previously required, that could be conducted at local, as well as more centralized, facilities.{31.4 MDEP is considering such possibilities, both for Portland, and for use statewide.{31.5 On January 13, 1997, MDEP polled ETAG stakeholders for their choices of an emissions testing procedure for Portland and for statewide use. Stakeholders failed to reach consensus.{31.5.1

The modified federal rule became effective on September 23, 1996. It is a significant improvement over the requirement for centralized high-tech facilities. Maine citizens should be pleased that their hard work to defeat that poorly conceived program in Maine bore fruit. The new modified rule for Portland and similar urban areas is evidence of the effectiveness of people who stood up to state governments and to the EPA and just said "No"!

However, the COMMITTEE should be aware:

  1. of the language of the new rule that encourages adoption of emission- control measures that go beyond the modified rule: "EPA does not necessarily recommend implementing this particular program but rather encourages states to design a program that will achieve equal or greater emission reductions than the performance standard while providing for the specific needs of the area."
  2. of EPA's defense of scientifically-indefensible measures that go beyond the rule -- namely I/M CARTEST.
  3. of EPA willingness to initiate sanctions against Maine to enforce scientifically-indefensible provisions of the Clean Air Act.{31.6
  4. of EPA intransigence on CARTEST in the face of mounting evidence that it doesn't work. (The following section on the Coninx Reports is particularly relevant on this point.)
  5. that MDEP wishes to disband the ETAG stakeholders group because there is no consensus among members to support a specific automobile testing proposal for either the Portland area or for statewide implementation. Though MDEP seems intent on testing automobiles for emission reduction capability, it is unwilling or unable to produce evidence that its automobile-testing proposals will be measurably effective at reducing the target pollution -- ozone.

On January 21, 1997 I was informed that MDEP is considering private contractors to provide advice on handling the current impasse -- namely, how to justify imposition of new automobile testing programs in Maine. I wrote to Commissioner Sullivan asking if what I have been told is true.{31.8 He responded: "I believe you misunderstood the Department's intention" and that "The Department ... intended as a first step in a public education process to conduct certain market research studies to survey the level of public knowledge. This information would assist in the development of whatever approach is chosen to address the requirement for an auto testing program. Since the Department (MDEP) has neither the expertise nor the resources to conduct such research in house, the Department will request grant money from the EPA to assist in the hiring of an outside contractor to accomplish this task".{31.8.1 This is not atypical of statements from MDEP management.

As to whether MDEP will develop scientific justification for a possible statewide automobile emissions testing program, Sullivan responded, "Whether the program musters a scientific justification will depend on the type of program implemented".{31.8.2

On February 27, 1997 the Augusta Capital Weekly announced, "Emission tests on the comeback". MDEP Air Quality Bureau Chief James Brooks is quoted as saying MDEP would like to have an emissions testing program "up and running by 1999" and that "it will be up to the Legislature to choose an option and flesh out the details."{31.8.3

On June 6, 1997 the USEPA notified the governors of New Hampshire and Maine with threats of federal sanctions unless Maine and New Hampshire implement EPA-approved cartest programs.{31.8.4 On October 17, 1997, New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen notified the EPA that New Hampshire "will file suit to require the agency to take action against air pollution entering New Hampshire from other states."{31.8.5

Coninx Reports, GAO Report, and RAND Study

Montreal writer Paul Coninx has studied automobile-emissions testing in the United States and Canada with particular attention to the role of the United States EPA and its advocacy for such testing. In his report, Specific Scientific and Technical Issues Relating to the Effectiveness of I/M Programs,{31.9 Coninx speaks of the Maine I/M (Inspection and Maintenance) program called CARTEST (now repealed), and finds that "less than 16% of the total cost of the I/M program was spent actually repairing vehicles." (Sec. 5, p.3)

"Using the data supplied by Maine and EPA estimates, the cost/benefit ratios of the Maine biennial IM240 program have been calculated. Our analysis of the real-life data from the Maine IM240 program using typical EPA analytic methods yielded a cost per tonne of HC reduction at 80 times what the EPA and I/M supporters repeatedly claim. The cost per tonne of HC for later model cars is over 130 times what EPA claims". (Sec. 5, p.2)

I cannot overemphasize the particular relevance of the Coninx work to that of the COMMITTEE. For it is not only officials in the executive branch of Maine's Government who have used questionable science to sell the public on the "benefits" of CARTEST and oxygenated RFG. The federal EPA is the national architect of this promotion; and Coninx exposes the EPA's free and easy defense of I/M programs:

"[Coninx] requested and received every technical report that appeared to address the issue of the effectiveness of I/M in reducing vehicle emissions dating back to the 1970s. ... After careful analysis, the writer found that every one of the EPA studies suffered from one or more serious methodological flaws, including arbitrary and biased sample selection, unwarranted assumptions, improper statistical references, small sample sizes, lack of proper controls, lack of peer review, and the drawing of absurd conclusions. Also reviewed were reports done by private contractors which often relied heavily on EPA computer models and contained the same methodological flaws. ... While making every reasonable attempt to find scientific evidence showing I/M to be effective, the writer found none. No peer-reviewed or other credible scientific studies could be found in support of the claims of I/M supporters. The writer did, however, come across a small but growing body of genuine, peer-reviewed and published scientific work on I/M. That material shows I/M to have little or no positive effect on the environment." (p.4-5, Foreword)

With regard to NOx emissions and automobile-emission inspection plans for Maine,{32.1 the Coninx message should be taken seriously. Coninx says:

"There is reason to suspect that many I/M programs, if they have any effect at all, may actually be doing the environment more harm than good, at least in areas where ozone is a problem. This is because many of the simple adjustments often used in I/M, such as resetting the fuel mixture to pass I/M HC and CO emissions tests, tend to make NOx emissions worse." (Sec. 2, p.1)

To an extent, this serious shortcoming of EPA air-pollution "science" may be a consequence of using computer "models", rather than real measurements to study the world around us. In my opinion, the EPA approaches to I/M and to the use of oxygenated fuels in Maine have the same, identical, common flaw -- namely that to attempt to control ozone in Maine through predicted, modest reductions in VOCs, whether through the use of I/M or of RFG, is not justifiable or credible in terms of current scientific thinking. Coninx sums it up:

"Bad science begets bad programs, and throwing good money at a bad program, no matter how well intentioned its supporters may be, will not benefit the environment. ... The Mobile Sources branch of the EPA appears to rely more on the force of U.S. federal law to promote I/M than on science and evolving technology." (Executive Summary, p.3 & p.1)

In November, 1996, Coninx published a second report that addresses specifically the British Columbia I/M program, "AirCare".{32.2 Coninx finds:

Regarding EPA's I/M-CARTEST regulations, the 1992 U.S. General Accounting Office Report concluded that although they "could have a major impact on reducing air pollution from motor vehicles, ...there are too many issues that have yet to be resolved. These issues include whether (1) emission failures are being properly identified by the IM240 (I/M-CARTEST) test, (2) emission failures can be properly repaired, (3) motorists will be unnecessarily inconvenienced and frustrated, and (4) alternative procedures exist that are less costly but could provide similar emissions benefit."{32.3

Among the conclusions of a 1993 RAND Study are: "We believe that neither the California Air Resources Board nor USEPA nor anyone else has both the framework and the appropriate empirical data to assure that the models are sufficiently accurate and unbiased to define or perhaps even to guide policy. ...Presumably, it would be worthwhile to require that the basis for regulatory decision-making should conform to good scientific practice ...".{32.4

"Another RAND finding is that even the adoption of the USEPA centralized IM240 concept (CARTEST) is not predicted (by EPA) to go very far in improving total fleet emissions, in terms of the gap between newer low-mileage vehicles and the in-use fleet."{32.5

The 1996 Coninx reports confirm the above, and in themselves are a devastating blow to any real hope for I/M-CARTEST as an effective air- pollution reduction program.

Yet CARTEST-I/M programs are still in vogue at the EPA. For example, citizens are currently organizing to oppose an I/M Program for Kansas City,{32.6 and contractors are waiting in the wings hoping to profit from administering such a program. The nation's largest I/M program contractor, the Envirotest Systems Corporation, "hired the best-connected lobbyists, built coalitions with business and health organizations, took over competitors", bought the Systems Control Company which ran Maine's erstwhile CARTEST program, and has emerged "well positioned ... as the leader in the centralized emissions testing industry".{32.7

Pollution Credit Trading

A particularly mean-spirited scheme to blame pollution on consumers rather than on industry is to enroll consumers in a plan wherein consumers generate "pollution credits" that can then be turned over to an industrial polluter. The industry, in turn, deposits its credits into a pollution-credit "bank" which issues, to that industry, permits to increase pollution by an amount corresponding to its existing pollution-credit balance.

Test-marketed in Maine in 1994, this was not a popular idea. "Credits" generated by citizens whose automobiles passed the State-mandated automobile emissions test were to be converted into pollution permits for the Louisiana- Pacific Corp. in Aroostook County.{32.7.1

Though the 1994 car-owner/Louisiana-Pacific pollution trade did not capture the fancy of a majority of incoming Governor King's otherwise enthusiastic pollution-credit trading "stakeholders", credit trading has been kept alive by allowing a credit-to-pollute to be sold by an industry that pollutes less -- to one that may wish to pollute more.{32.7.2

On January 25, 1995 it was reported: "Minnesota Power is selling off most of its Wall Street portfolio to buy ($162 million) Indiana based ADESA Auto Auction, North America's third largest used auto seller with annual revenues of $7.7 million."{32.7.4 Is it unreasonable to speculate on whether MP will be selling used vehicles, or instead, scrap hundreds of thousands to generate "Emission Reduction Credits" for marketing to other power companies and stationary industrial polluters? For a Duluth-based diversified electric company to put all its eggs in one basket, going into the used car business may be cause for concern. Scrappage programs are meeting significant opposition from auto hobbyists, restorers and aftermarket parts and service industries, providing 2.5 million full-time jobs in a $200 billion industry".{32.7.5 The ADESA purchase was reported to be completed in August of 1996.{

People should be aware that auto-crushing plans are already popular with bureaucrats around the Country. Called "cash for clunkers", once again citizens are pressured to generate "pollution credits" by turning in older- model cars to be crushed. The "credits" thus generated are purchased and resold to businesses in need of pollution permits. In this way, pollution- credit trading has become a profitable business for the Eco-Scrap Company of Los Angeles (formerly Unocal) where it's more profitable to crush cars (10,000 per year anticipated) than to implement ride-sharing programs.{32.7.6 So the consumer takes a licking, the pollution-credit vendors profit, and the new-car dealers and car-finance companies just grin and bear it. Watch that this scam does not take hold in Maine! It's so simple -- a chain of unconscionable profiteering initiated by the simple act of talking people out of their affordable transportation so they have to buy new cars they can't afford.

On July 24, 1997, Communities for a Better Environment filed a complaint with the EPA and lawsuits against five oil companies accusing the industry of:

"swapping pollution credits in order to avoid installing equipment that would keep hazardous fumes out of minority neighborhoods. The federal civil rights suit attacks a program that allows the companies to buy and scrap high-polluting cars in exchange for not having to deal with emissions that escape when gasoline is loaded onto ships"{32.7.7

Governor Angus King

The Chief Executive's response in the current controversy over RFG has been to leave the responsibility to "stakeholders", task forces, and other bodies such as the COMMITTEE. Predictably, lobbyists went to work and befriended the popular excuse for capitulation to the oxyfuel industry: namely that the EPA will assess Federal penalties if the State fails to accept the oil industry solution to ozone -- oxygenated, reformulated gasoline (RFG).{32.8

On June 28, 1995, MDEP Air Quality Bureau Chief John Davis made a viewgraph presentation of "Governor King's Volatile Organic Compound Reduction Strategy" to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection.{32.10 Viewgraph #2 showed the mobile-highway contribution to York, Cumberland, and Sagadahoc County total VOCs to be 50%; official MDEP Inventory figures called it 14%.{32.11 Viewgraph #3 claimed King's VOC-reduction program would "Provide Clean Air" and a "Healthy Economy". Viewgraph #8 claimed "no cancer link" to MTBE, and that "MTBE replaces 24% benzene". Viewgraph #11 proclaimed: "No 15% Plan = No Jobs", and "Economy crippled".{32.12 Such an aggressive promotion of MTBE could leave one eager to try it on breakfast cereal.

When running for Governor, Angus King prepared a memorandum for George Neavoll, an editor at the Portland Press Herald. It was a simplified, but analytic, explanation of the diminishing returns to be expected from trying to reduce ozone through a system of automobile emissions-testing and repair.{32.13 Following his election, Governor King endorsed a different plan to reduce ozone,{32.14 the effectiveness of which was no greater than that of the automobile-testing program he had opposed. The new plan did not test automobiles; it fed automobiles oxygenated RFG instead. Subsequently I have mailed and hand carried much ozone-pollution information to Governor King's office, but I do not know if it has ever reached him.{32.15

On May 1, 1995, King responded to a newspaper editorial that asked why he didn't recommend the sale of (reformulated gasoline) statewide. King said, "Under the Clean Air Act, the State is prohibited from selling reformulated gas in areas that are in compliance with federal pollution laws ...".{33.1

What King may have intended to say was that, under Federal law, he could not require the sale of RFG statewide.{33.2 But oxygenated RFG is apparently already being sold in areas of the State where it is not required -- at a cost of "6 to 8 cents a gallon higher than conventional gasoline". {33.3 It's good business for the oxygenated fuel industry; it's not so clear what benefit Maine residents get from this "deal".

Another disturbing aspect of the Administration's record on air pollution is its advocacy for obtaining an EPA waiver to allow NOx emissions from new industrial development in northern Maine -- without the otherwise required NOx-reduction technology.{33.4 On one hand, Governor King recommends ineffective VOC-reduction to control ozone; on the other hand he advocates allowing NOx increases where NOx is the recognized ozone-producing culprit in NOx-limited areas like Maine.{33.5

The Governor must be judged on his record of performance which, at this time, appears to have been to enlist the aid of the Health Bureau and the Department of Environmental Protection, that (on unreasonably short notice) took information from the oxygenated fuels industry and its lobbyists, and repackaged it for consumption by the taxpaying public.{33.6

This "science" is the kind Governor King employed in two other recent efforts -- one to develop with public money an industrial facility to benefit private interests -- the other to develop with public money a campaign to discredit a citizen referendum.{33.7 In these efforts, King enlisted the services of public agencies to develop scientific arguments that would support preconceived political conclusions.{33.8

In the case of oxygenated RFG, poor science justified spending public money to benefit private industrial interests -- to ceremonially place the burden of cleaning up industrially polluted air on the backs of individual citizens.

The oxyfuels industry is only one of a number of large industrial and corporate interests that seem to avoid close scrutiny under the King Administration. Not unlike using oxygenated fuel to "reduce ozone" in Maine, the NYNEX/E911 emergency-communication-network contract recently rejected by a State appeals board{33.9 is an example of government irregularity that may benefit industry more than the public which pays the bill.

In Governor King's defense, he says he's willing to go after out-of-state air polluters who drop their products on Maine.{33.10 King says, "Midwestern states should be forced to curb emissions that cause pollution in the Northeast".{33.11 I agree. Time will tell whether King will take the legal action New Hampshire Governor Shaheen has pledged.{33.12

SECTION VI -- EPA Strategy: Divide and Conquer

The Coninx Reports, as well as experiences of citizen activists, have found that the EPA often lacks scientific integrity when it comes to dealing with air and water pollution, dealing with industry that pollutes, and dealing with industry that may wish to profit from cleaning up that pollution.

EPA management does not enjoy, and has not earned, the confidence of many thoughtful Americans who have met the EPA on various environmental battlefields. The EPA has trouble distinguishing the concept of public service from that of loyalty to corporate America. As with the FBI's long history of harassing political activists,{33.13 the EPA frustrates environmental and health activists who oppose incineration and other EPA procedures for disposing of dangerous chemicals.{34.1

An example of how closely the EPA is tied to industrial interests -- interests it should be regulating -- is a letter dated April 2, 1977 from EPA employee William Sanjour to EPA Administrator Carol Browner. He notified her of a "serious breech of government ethical standards" committed by EPA officials. Sanjour said, "an EPA employee was sent [in 1996] to Amsterdam at public expense to attend a conference on dioxin at which he presented an industry-sponsored study which downplayed the need for EPA regulation of that industry ...and which concluded that there was no connection between the chlorine content of the wastes in incinerators and the dioxin emissions. The study was paid for by the Vinyl Institute, a trade association whose members have a very strong vested interest in showing that the incineration of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other chlorinated products do not emit significant amounts of dioxin when incinerated so as to avoid regulation by EPA."{34.1.1 Three months after Sanjour sent his letter, there was still no response.{34.1.2

On September 5, 1997, I filed a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request with the EPA for a copy of its response to Sanjour. The law requires federal agencies to respond to FOIs within 20 working days. As of November 5, 1997, I had received no answer to my request.

Often against citizen opposition, the EPA promotes the disposal of sewage sludge on agricultural land.{34.2 And as we already know, the EPA supports the use of CARTEST and oxygenated fuel to "lower ozone pollution" in Maine -- efforts that serve mainly to enrich corporate America. EPA has yet to reveal how effective (or ineffective) these programs are at lowering ozone pollution in Maine.

An organization that has been particularly helpful in focussing public attention on health and environmental hazards in the United States is The Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste (CCHW). Lois Marie Gibbs, who led the campaign that exposed Hooker Chemical Company (Occidental Petroleum) at Love Canal, is Executive Director of CCHW.

She and CCHW Organizing Director Charlotte Brody have published, "Divide and Conquer: The EPA's Latest Strategy and What to Do About It",{34.3 an up- to-date guide on how the EPA subverts grassroots democracy in America. It explains how government tactics isolate community leaders from their constituencies by first appointing them to stakeholder panels, and then with the decision-making process thus restricted to a group of officials, their decoys, and a few outvoted community leaders, business as usual can proceed. Unpopular decisions will then be blamed on the community leaders who, after all, were part of the secret decision-making process. Distrust of community leaders is thus established, and vital community unity is destroyed. Gibbs and Brody advise how to thwart such tactics and how to maintain community unity so important when facing faceless giants like the EPA.

CCHW has published a summary of facts on MTBE, along with information on grassroots contacts for help with questions about it.{34.3.1 In the current issue of CCHW's journal Everyone's Backyard CCHW Science Director Stephen Lester analyzes EPA's dedication to citing an incinerator in a Liverpool, Ohio neighborhood. Lester says:

Just as the EPA uses "special-interest science" to justify higher profits for the MTBE industry, rather than to protect the public health.

But once in a while, in spite of the EPA, the environment gets a break as it did on July 7, 1997 when "the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA's March 1996 regulation, allowing the importation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) for destruction in U.S. incinerators, violated the Toxic Substances Act."{34.4

SECTION VII -- The Clean Air Act, and The Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management

In the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, Congress mandated that a Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management be formed to "...make a full investigation of the policy implications and appropriate uses of risk assessment and risk management in regulatory programs under various Federal laws to prevent cancer and other chronic human health effects which may result from exposure to hazardous substances."{34.4.1

Volume I of the Commission Report recommends "an integrated, holistic approach to solving public health and environmental problems... and [establishment of] a process for engaging stakeholders ... who might be affected by the risk management decision". This study recognizes that the environment suffers when risks, particularly cumulative risks, are ignored and that the involvement of stakeholders, as well as stakeholder expertise, should be expanded.{34.4.2

Unfortunately, the publication of the long-overdue observations and the valuable recommendations of the report's authors are all but obscured by patriarchal philosophy in which the Report frames the authors' good advice. Though its recommendations for expanded citizen involvement are refreshingly appropriate, the Report suggests limiting citizen involvement to subservient roles in which meaningful citizen challenge to authority is minimized.

For example, under a section entitled Guidelines for Stakeholder Involvement, the very first introductory statement assumes that there will be "non-negotiable items" on which stakeholder input will not be entertained. This statement is followed by a patronizing caveat: "stakeholders must be willing to negotiate and should be flexible".{34.4.3 The final introductory statement makes clear the need to limit stakeholder involvement to that "appropriate to the scope and impact of a decision and the potential of the decision to generate controversy".{34.4.4

Under the heading Who Decides?, the Report carefully delineates stakeholder influence by suggesting "incorporating their [stakeholder] recommendations where possible".{34.4.5 And finally, in a section dealing with risk- management actions, an inventory of recommended citizen actions is presented: "Recycling, purchasing products that use recycled materials, or complying with automobile emissions testing".{34.4.6 [underlining, JCH]

The Report presents two examples of controversial Maine government actions.{34.4.7 One was Maine's ill-fated CARTEST program, and the other is the Maine Turnpike widening battle. The Report is wide of the mark on both issues. In the case of CARTEST, it maintains that the reportedly "cost effective" CARTEST program failed because the government failed to properly indoctrinate the public. The Report missed two reasons that CARTEST failed -- before it even started: (1) that the scientific basis for CARTEST's environmental effectiveness was faulty; and (2) that CARTEST just didn't work.

Regarding widening of the Maine Turnpike, the Commission apparently considers the currently raging battle an example of "successful" stakeholder involvement.{34.4.8 The Commission does not mention that the reason citizens got involved originally was because they were forced to petition the turnpike question onto the ballot -- not because the State Government involved the public, but because the government did not involve the public. Only after the voters (not "stakeholders") defeated the turnpike widening in 1991 did the State momentarily lower its pro-Turnpike-widening profile.

But the State could not abide its defeat at the polls; the Legislature placed the turnpike-widening question back on the ballot for another try in November 1997 -- where it won.

In its haste to find a "successful" stakeholder operation in Maine, the Commission On Environmental Risk Assessment failed to note an important environmental success of the earlier turnpike referendum -- lowering the potential increase of air pollution from a widened Turnpike.

In spite of the Report's shortcomings, the MDEP should carefully review it. As is, it is still a better basis for public policy than MDEP's current tunnel-vision regarding citizen (stakeholder) involvement in the environmental-protection process. The MDEP would do well to start with the Commission Report, and repair its shortcomings on stakeholder participation. Maine citizens do not need another venture into expensive, ineffective, hi- tech, environmental experiments like CARTEST and oxygenated gasoline.


An early version of Dirty Air, Dirty Water was presented to the COMMITTEE in March, 1997.{U2 This Section reports subsequent events.

During the Spring of 1997, Maine public officials and the Maine Legislature hardened the line against environmental citizen-generated measures that were aimed at abating chemical environmental pollution.{U2.1 The Maine Legislature also considered reinstating statewide automobile emissions testing, and authorized a study thereof.{U2.1.1 On May 29, 1997, the Legislative Council abolished the COMMITTEE (Select Committee to Study the Health Effects of Reformulated Gasoline) for whose benefit the early work on this book was done. [The ten-member Legislative Council is the elected leadership of the Legislature, and it is responsible for the overall management of the Legislature.{U2.2]

Concurrently with these Maine activities, the Transportation Committee and the Environmental Quality Committee of the California State Senate, and the Appropriations Committees of the California Senate and the Assembly, conducted hearings on two Senate Bills (SB-521 and SB-1189, Senators Mountjoy and Hayden, respectively). The first bill would prohibit the use of MTBE in gasoline, and the second would strengthen regulations for cleaning up and preventing leaks of MTBE fuel into ground water. (Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly cites a USEPA estimate "that of the nation's two million commercial tanks, some 300,000 to 500,000 are leaking,"{U2.2.1 and that the "EPA has found no corrective action technology capable of bringing water quality back to national [drinking water] standards..."{U2.2.2)

SB-521 passed with unanimous votes in the Senate and in the Assembly; the SB-1189 vote to pass was just short of unanimous in each house. The Governor signed both bills.

Compared to Maine, the California news media may have been more responsive to citizen concerns about petroleum-industry-sponsored MTBE pollution.{U2.2.3 But the Los Angeles Times was particularly hostile to leading citizen public- health advocates, Myron Mehlman and Peter Joseph, implying, without supporting evidence, that they could actually be shills for the ethanol industry.{U2.2.3d (The idea was that if MTBE were to fall from favor as a popular oxygenate, ethanol might become a newly-favored competitor.) Myron Mehlman responded by Letter to The Times.{U2.2.4 The Times published the Mehlman letter after cutting it by 60%.{U2.2.5

MTBE -- Maine Legislature

Myron Mehlman has testified that cancer-causing potency of MTBE and benzene in animals are about the same.{U2.3 Presently in Maine, the maximum allowed level of MTBE in drinking water is 50 ppb. A Maine Legislature bill, LD-658 (Rep. Verdi Tripp and co-sponsors Sen. Richard J. Carey, Rep. Paul Chartrand, Sen. James D. Libby, and Rep. Glenys P. Lovett,) would have lowered this level to 5 ppb, the same level allowed for benzene.{U2.4

The Oxygenated Fuels Association, the Maine Petroleum Association, and the Lisbon Water Commission joined with the Bureau of Health and the Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) to oppose LD-658 before the Health and Human Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.

The Bureau of Health argued that it would be legitimate to raise the maximum allowed level of MTBE (rather than to lower it).{U2.5 The MDEP said, "RFG [MTBE gasoline] is the cornerstone of our 15% plan [ozone reduction plan]... in southern Maine" and ..."there is no evidence that the presence of MTBE in the environment poses a significant public health risk".{U2.6

Lisbon Water Commissioner David F. Hale said his water commission is unanimously opposed to the bill because "the removal of MTBE from drinking water involves an expensive process which could only be justified if a real health problem existed."{U2.7

The Maine Petroleum Association presented a bibliography of MTBE studies. Page-One of the bibliography listed 12 toxicity studies, 11 of which were conducted by "IBT" (Industrial Biotest Laboratories).{U2.7.1 Dan Fagin and Marianne Lavelle recount how IBT, which was conducting 35 to 40 percent of all toxicology testing in the United States, was exposed as a fraud in 1976. IBT was "hellbent on providing their clients with favorable reports ... an assembly line for acceptable studies".{U2.8

OFA consultant Nancy Balter told the Natural Resources Committee that a safe maximum level for MTBE in drinking water could be 70 ppb -- 20 ppb higher than Maine's current maximum concentration level for MTBE. She also claimed, "The evidence suggests that reformulated gasoline will decrease both evaporative and exhaust emissions associated with the use of gasoline, and that these reductions will have a positive effect on human health".{U2.9 She added, "The Commissioner (MDEP's Commissioner Sullivan) says it will lower pollution".

When asked about the symptoms of people who experience ill effects from exposure to MTBE, Balter responded, "If you took 100 people and told them they may develop symptoms, and even if there was nothing in the air, lots of normal people will get sick." In response to a question about asthma symptoms from MTBE exposure, Balter said, "There is asthma generated by odor" (of MTBE). Balter did not discuss whether odor-generated asthma is more, or less, debilitating than asthma from other causes.

The USEPA testified, "If this bill (LD-658) is intended to eliminate the use of cleaner burning reformulated gasoline (MTBE) in Maine, we do not support it."{U2.10

Myron Mehlman provided extensive documentation in support of LD-658 to the Health and Human Services Committee, and to the Natural Resources Committee. He explained how people can be at increased risk from MTBE in drinking water:

Senator James Libby focussed on the health and economic problems caused by Maine's RFG. He said:

  • Representative Paul Chartrand told the Committee:

    Representative Belinda Gerry emphasized the unique nature of MTBE -- its ability to mix, and flow through the earth, with the groundwater.

    Representative Adam Mack voiced his concern for lake pollution from MTBE:

    Representative Jay MacDougall said:

    Gardiner resident, Ruth Gabey, told the Natural Resources Committee that it should be concerned about chemicals like formaldehyde produced from the burning of RFG. Gabey drew parallels between the MTBE problem and those of other substances that have been approved for public use without adequate testing -- like DDT, asbestos, and Chlordane. She drew extensively from published warnings to take seriously cancer and other chemically-caused diseases.{U2.11.7

    Judy Bogdanove (Friendship) testified:

    Beverly Franklin's husband Gary has become disabled and is on oxygen since the advent of MTBE-RFG in Maine. She said:

    Many individual citizens testified in favor of LD-658 as did Democratic, Republican, and Independent members of the Legislature. No legislators and no citizens unaffiliated with lobbying groups testified against the measure. LD-658 sponsor, Rep. Verdi Tripp, told the Natural Resources Committee:

    The Natural Resources Committee responded with a unanimous "Ought Not to Pass" [five members absent] and substituted a brief resolve (Chapter 58, 1997) that called for further Bureau of Health study of MTBE -- the same Bureau of Health that sees no problem with raising the allowed level of MTBE in drinking water.{U2.12 The full Legislature endorsed the Committee action, and the Governor signed the resolve on June 11, 1997.

    Petroleum Industry Invests in Maine Lobbying

    Legislative hearings and Committee meetings on MTBE in Maine take place under the watchful eyes of lobbyists and representatives for the American Petroleum Institute, the Maine Oil Dealers Association, the Oxygenated Fuels Association, and the American Methanol Institute. In 1995, fuel-industry lobbyists were paid $149,000 for their work in Maine. ARCO provided 55% of that money.{U2.13

    Dioxin -- Maine Legislature

    Chlorine used in paper manufacturing generates dioxin which pollutes rivers downstream of paper mills.{U2.14 A result of this pollution is that Maine fish and lobsters contain dangerous amounts of dioxin,{U2.15 one of the most powerful poisons known.

    The Bureau of Health testified before the Natural Resources Committee in support of a paper-industry-supported bill to allow chlorine to continue to be used in the production of paper in Maine. This measure (LD-1633){U2.16 competed directly with one generated by citizens (LD-1577){U2.17 that would have prohibited the use of chlorine-based chemicals in paper production. The USEPA ducked the issue,{U2.17.1 and the Legislature killed the citizen measure.{U2.17.2

    So that the paper industry might avoid the expense of modifying paper- manufacturing plants to employ chlorine-free bleaching processes, there was heavy industry opposition to LD-1577. In the 1996 election, forest-products industries contributed over $12,000 to members of the Maine Legislature's Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committees, the Natural Resources Committee, and the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.{U2.18 In 1995, over $193,000 was spent by forest-products industries for lobbying in Maine.{U2.19

    Automobile Emissions Testing -- Maine Legislature

    In spite of all the evidence that automobile emissions testing as practiced in the United States and in Canada is an unjust and ineffective way to reduce ozone air-pollution, and in spite of a 70,000-signature citizen petition that in January 1995 killed Maine's one and only emissions testing program,{U2.20 the Maine Legislature has now endorsed an MDEP "study" of a proposed new round of statewide automobile emission-reduction inspections, and the MDEP has commenced an advertising campaign to promote such.{U2.21 RFG Study COMMITTEE Attacked, Authority Restricted -- Maine Legislature

    Sally Tubbesing, Executive Director of the Legislative Council, reports that on May 29, 1997, the Council{U2.21.1 terminated the Select COMMITTEE to Study the Health Effects of Reformulated Gasoline. Tubbesing says minutes of that Council meeting do not exist,{U2.21.2 but that a tape recording was made. From these tapes, Tubbesing's staff has provided a transcript of the May 29 Council action on the COMMITTEE; and although this transcript does not report the Council vote, it does suggest that a vote took place.{U2.21.3 Tubbesing attended the May 29 Council meeting and prepared a summary which reported a Council vote (8-2) to terminate the COMMITTEE.{U2.21.4

    I was able to reach and speak with Senate President Mark Lawrence and Senators Jane Amero, Chellie Pingree, and Anne Rand and Representative Richard Campbell (all Council members); the senators each say they do not recall voting to abolish the COMMITTEE, nor do they recall such a vote taking place. Senator Pingree told me it was not Council practice to abolish a committee unless a chairman of that committee had requested it. Rep. Campbell remembers the Council meeting late at night (early morning hours of May 29), and although he doesn't recall a vote about the RFG COMMITTEE, he says such votes are not unusual.{U2.21.5 House Speaker and Council member Elizabeth Mitchell is reported to have defended the Council vote to disband the Committee.{U2.21.6 COMMITTEE Co-chairman Rep. Verdi Tripp learned of the Council action when he was "alerted by a lobbyist in June".{U2.21.7

    Originally, during the previous legislative session (116th Maine Legislature), over 100 members of the House of Representatives signed a petition requesting the establishment of the COMMITTEE to hold hearings in all seven counties required to use RFG.{U2.21.8 COMMITTEE problems with Legislature leadership commenced shortly thereafter, when the leadership limited the number of COMMITTEE public meetings to four, from the seven the COMMITTEE had requested.{U2.21.9 At the time the Legislative Council attacked, the COMMITTEE had held only two hearings that involved testimony from the general public, where witness after witness expressed concern at the human suffering they feel is caused by MTBE in gasoline.{U2.21.10

    On August 13, 1997, COMMITTEE Co-chairman Verdi Tripp wrote to House Speaker Elizabeth Mitchell expressing his disappointment at the Council action: "As co-chairs of that particular committee, Sen. Philip Harriman and I strongly object to a vote to disband such an important committee without having been notified that such an action was going to be considered. ...Sen. Harriman and I believe that this committee should be allowed to finish its work. We believe that additional hearings should be authorized in other counties so a complete report can be presented to the second session of the 118th Maine Legislature for its consideration."{U2.21.11

    On August 22, at a meeting of the Legislative Council, Tripp asked the Council to reconsider its action of May 29. He asked that the Council "allow the COMMITTEE to conclude its work" and to "allow us three additional public hearings". Tripp suggested "that in the future when a Select Committee has not completed its task, that this Legislative Council at least consult with its chair before voting to eliminate it".{U2.21.12

    The Council then voted (7 - 0, Amero, Campbell, Lawrence, Mitchell, Pingree, Rand, and Saxl) to reinstate the COMMITTEE but to restrict the number of additional public hearings to one. House Speaker Mitchell said, she hopes the COMMITTEE can "glean what it needs" from this single hearing.{U2.21.13 Thus the COMMITTEE will not hold hearings in four of the seven counties now using oxygenated RFG.

    Part of the agreement reached with the Council was that the COMMITTEE would collect information but not make a recommendation on the continued use of oxygenated RFG in Maine.{U2.21.13.1 This appears to reverse the policy set when the COMMITTEE was established, namely that the COMMITTEE would hold a "final meeting to summarize conclusions", (and have the support of the State Office of Policy and Legal Analysis to do so). [underline, JCH].{U2.21.14

    The COMMITTEE held its single public hearing on September 29, 1997. Four citizens testified in opposition to the use of MTBE in gasoline. Five representatives of the oxyfuel industry attended, but none testified. Nor did any of the MDEP officials who were in the audience.{U2.21.15 The COMMITTEE plans to present information collected to the Legislature in December 1997.

    Maine Bureau of Health -- MTBE Revisited

    Provided to the COMMITTEE by letter of October 22, 1977 from the Bureau of Health is "the latest written update on information relating to the health effects of reformulated gasoline (RFG)." Titled "Update on health-related information on MTBE reformulated gasoline", the body of the October 22 communication is a copy of a "Briefing Memorandum", dated June 18/24, 1997, prepared for Governor Angus King by Maine state toxicologists at the Bureau of Health. An "update on information relating to ... the health effects of RFG", had been requested by the COMMITTEE by letter of October 8 to the Health Bureau.{U2.22

    Missing from the Health Bureau update are, among other things:

    1. testimony and information critical of MTBE provided to the Maine State Legislature (and available to the Bureau of Health) at hearings on MTBE legislation in the spring of 1997,
    2. testimony critical of MTBE before committees of the California State Legislature at hearings on MTBE legislation in the spring of 1997, and
    3. readily-available information on serious MTBE water pollution in Maine and elsewhere.

    The Health Bureau "Update":

    The Health Bureau "Update" on MTBE cites primarily government/industry- supported "studies" of yet other studies. This unabashedly selective "research" simply reestablishes the Health Bureau endorsement of long- discredited government/industry "spins" on MTBE. The Maine State Health Bureau position on MTBE seems aptly expressed in its determination to increase the amount of MTBE allowed in Maine drinking water, while establishing an escape route for itself in the event that more public officials were to take seriously the public outrage over the hazardous chemical:

    In retrospect, since publication of its less-than-distinguished May-1995 study of MTBE,{U2.22.31 the Bureau of Health seems to have made little progress in its understanding of the political, scientific, public-health, and environmental aspects of Maine's MTBE, reformulated-gasoline program.

    MTBE -- California Legislature

    Testifying on SB-521 before the Senate Transportation Committee in the California Legislature, Myron Mehlman reviewed the standard-setting history for dangerous substances where, over time, and in spite of industry opposition, the permissible exposure levels were drastically lowered. He said, "Today, industry is utilizing the same flawed and deceptive argument with MTBE as it did with benzene, vinyl chloride, asbestos, and 1,3-butadiene. It is clear that as more information becomes available regarding MTBE as a carcinogen, the permissible exposure levels must be reduced."{U2.23

    Mehlman cited Professor Bernard Goldstein (whom Mehlman presented as "one of the nation's top hematologists and world expert on benzene-induced leukemias and who was, for several years, Assistant Administrator for Research and Development at the U.S. EPA"). Goldstein wrote:

    Mehlman concluded:

    1. MTBE in gasoline is dangerous.
    2. MTBE causes cancers (leukemias, lymphomas, testicular and liver cancers).
    3. MTBE is converted (combustion, atmospheric chemistry, body chemistry) to formaldehyde and tertiary butyl alcohol (TBA).
    4. Formaldehyde causes cancers of the nasopharynx, nasal cavity, and sinuses in humans.
    5. TBA in water causes cancers (kidney and thyroid).
    6. MTBE in gasoline causes neurotoxic symptoms such as headaches, lightheadedness, inability to concentrate, and anxiety.
    7. MTBE in gasoline causes respiratory and allergic illnesses.
    8. MTBE in gasoline makes people ill.

    In marked contrast to the Maine experience where a water commissioner actually testified in opposition to lowering the level of MTBE allowed in drinking water,{U2.23.2 Alameda (California) Flood Control and Water Conservation District (Zone 7) Board of Directors member John Marchand submitted, in support of SB-521, a resolution of the Board of Directors recommending:

    Nachman Brautbar, M.D., a practicing physician since 1976 and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, is Editor of the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology. Brautbar has treated people who, through inhalation or ingestion, are exposed to MTBE. He has examined over 300 such patients in the past 5 years. Alluding to the claim that MTBE reduces carbon monoxide emissions from automobiles, Brautbar said, "I'd rather have my patients exposed to carbon monoxide rather than to a carcinogen".{U2.24.1 The Placer County Water Agency endorsed SB-521 and commented:

    Some other supporters of SB-521 are the Fontana Water Company, San Gabriel Valley Water Association, San Gabriel Valley Water Company, San Jose Water Company, Southern California Water Company, the Contra Costa Water District, and the Southern California Association of Governments.{U2.26

    Jodi Waters, Chair of California Oxybusters, testified:

    Smog-Check (California CARTEST) technician Don Dahl testified that in addition to suffering from asthma attacks and burning of his eyes upon MTBE exposure, he has swelling and arthritis symptoms in his hands that occur within minutes of hand contact with MTBE. He also testified that his measurements of NOx exhaust-emission levels from combustion of MTBE gasoline were about three times as high as those from non-MTBE gasoline.{U2.27

    Professor Peter M. Joseph, from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, testified:

    Dr. Joseph is a member of the Philadelphia Asthma Task Force, and he is currently investigating the rising incidence of asthma and its possible relationship to the introduction of MTBE. In a paper delivered at the June 1997 Toronto Meeting of the Air and Waste Management Association,{U2.27.2 Joseph showed, among other things, the lack of correlation between ozone levels and the implementation of RFG strategies in Pennsylvania. Figure 5 reproduces Figures 5 and 6 from Joseph's Toronto paper. This data suggests that ozone behavior may be more closely related to ambient temperature and to improved pollution control on newer automobiles than to whether or not RFG is used. Joseph presented this information in his Senate testimony.

    Dr. Andrew Wortman testified: "For over 10 years I was a member of the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Early in 1991, there was enormous pressure to adopt this fuel (oxygenates). ... The game was slanted toward the ARCO gasoline (MTBE). The word from the chair was, "The governor's office wants it fast". Dr. Jeffries found that the study which had been commissioned by the ARB against my strongest advice, [had] some fatal flaws in the computer model we were using to justify reformulated gasoline. In the meantime the automobile manufacturers were pounding on us to do it because that took them off the hook. They no longer had to clean up the engines.

    "We have recent test data ... which suggests that it is not the RFG, it's the lower sulphur content that is reducing pollution. We don't seem to have done much good, we seem to have health problems ..."{U2.27.3

    Rich [did not give his name for fear of reprisal from his employer]: "I work in the fuels industry, 14 years, truck driver (for a petroleum company). I'm using "Rich" right now (for my name); I'm still working. I have an immaculate record. I've had severe medical problems, had to go on disability, off for 15 months now, memory loss, nose bleeds, nausea, headaches, not all at once, it comes and goes, massive headaches, skin rashes, I've had MTBE on me, it goes through our gloves -- the response from the industry, you won't hear a lot from the other drivers because they're scared into not saying anything. At this point we've asked for help in respirators or something to keep these fumes from us -- inhaling it while we're loading or unloading the vehicles. We were handed a regular painter's mask, and basically I found out through research that a regular painter's mask does not work. Severe problems with a lot of other drivers out there falling asleep at the wheel, I've hit the side of the road several times, probably more than several times, and there's a lot of other drivers out there that are doing the same thing. ... People were getting ill at the pumps."{U2.27.4

    Bob Seagraves: "I'm an independent chemical engineering consultant. I've spent over 30 years in various technical and general management positions in the gasoline manufacturing business known as petroleum refining. And a year ago (1996) I told John Dunlap (head of CARB) and the CARB that their new specifications for RFG were fine, except one thing, and that was oxygenated hydrocarbons were not necessary to reduce CO exhaust emissions from automobiles, because with the catalytic converters and the so-called smog pumps that pump air into the exhaust we have done just about all we can do to eliminate CO. ...I think we should eliminate all oxygenated hydrocarbons in gasoline, not just MTBE."{U2.27.5

    "I'm Bill Russell, former Executive Director of Mountain Counties Water Resources Association three-term president of the California Water Resources Association, and a past director on Comanche Regional Park Board. And I ask you, will you continue these studies of the effect on body contact on us and the effect on internal organs from drinking it?"{U2.27.7

    "Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. My name is Craig Perkins, and I'm the Director of Environmental and Public Works Management for the city of Santa Monica, and in that capacity I'm responsible for managing the city's water enterprise and insuring safe drinking water to all our residents, businesses, and visitors. The reason I'm here today is that Santa Monica's facing the largest environmental crisis in its history due to contamination of our drinking water by MTBE. Between February 1996 and October 1996, we had to shut down 7 of 11 of our drinking water wells. Those wells provided over 50% of the drinking water, and this contamination has severely damaged our self sufficiency. I should note that after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the City was totally reliant on that well water for a two-week period. The MTBE contamination has also compelled our city council to levy a 25% surcharge on all of our water customers. We're now embroiled in costly litigation over the contamination of some of the wells, and in order to decrease the possibility that this same disaster will not occur in other cities or water districts in California, we're urging you to approve this bill which addresses four critical areas in our estimation.

    "A primary drinking water standard for MTBE needs to be established as soon as possible so that citizens in California can be assured that the water is safe. Secondary standards based on taste and odor thresholds for MTBE need to be established also so that water agencies such as Santa Monica cannot be compelled to deliver drinking water to their customers which is not drinkable.

    "Secondly, agencies which are responsible for regulating leaking underground fuel tanks and pipelines must be required to notify all operators of drinking water wells which are within a one-mile radius of the leak site so that they can take the precautions necessary to prevent contamination to their ground water.

    "Third, requirements for fuel pipelines need to be strengthened so that they are required to install automatic and continuous leak detection monitors whenever they pass within a one-mile radius of drinking water wells.

    "And lastly, the procedures and protocols that govern response and cleanup of leaks from those fuel storage tanks and pipelines need to be revamped and strengthened to respond to the new and serious threat posed to drinking water from MTBE. When a leak occurs, we now know that we have to quickly assess the problem and begin cleanup as soon as possible.

    "You'll hear, and you have heard opponents of these measures argue that Santa Monica's case is an isolated incident, that the new requirements in the proposed legislation are too costly, therefore, for such a small problem. To the contrary, we contend that the public drinking water supplies in California are at enormous risk from MTBE contamination, because MTBE as a chemical has very different properties from the other components of gasoline once it leaks into groundwater.

    "You may also hear about legislation and standards which are already in place regarding fuel tank upgrades and pipeline testing which supposedly make these new requirements unnecessary. The fact is that at least one of the tanks responsible for Santa Monica's contamination had already been upgraded to the 1998 standards before it leaked.

    "The fact is also that the current testing accuracy for leaks from fuel pipelines may allow as much as ten gallons per hour or 85,000 gallons per year of product to be released, and the pipeline will still pass the test.

    "One half gallon of MTBE is all it takes to pollute 13 million gallons of water which happens to be Santa Monica's daily demand.

    "The fact that in the first three months of the current state-wide testing of water wells, MTBE has been found at 21 sampling points is not cause for relief, but cause for concern in our minds. The citizens of Santa Monica and California need the protections and the prudent measures that are contained in this bill, and I urge you to approve these measures, and that's SB-1189. Thank you very much."{U2.27.8

    Donald Brown, a former refinery worker, is a Board member of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE). In support of SB-521, he spoke on behalf of CBE, Greenpeace, and the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers. He cited, from his own experience, MTBE-caused damage to storage tanks.{U2.27.9

    John R. Froines, Professor of Toxicology and Chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at UCLA School of Public Health: "We're not arguing whether or not RFG is an important issue. We should be arguing about whether MTBE is the appropriate octane enhancer. ... Ethanol is not going to be a satisfactory substitute, and the other compounds that have been thought about are probably not going to be substitutes either because they look to be toxic. And so we don't want to replace one --- we got rid of DBCP in the fields and went to EDB and then we went to TLON, and we've been replacing pesticides for years. We want to stay off that kind of slippery slope. ...So I think it's important to start immediately to look at safe non-toxic substitutes for MTBE."

    ..."The problem we have now is what are we going to do about it (MTBE)? ...Government agencies and industries now have a vested interest in the continued use of this chemical, plants are being built in Saudi Arabia, it's becoming internationalized, and so what we're doing here today I think is a fundamentally important issue to address a problem that really should have been dealt with a long time ago.

    "I would argue that at some point when you have nothing else to do that you put forward legislation that requires the state to look at the public health impact of chemicals that are going to be used on a widespread basis in this state, and that we take that as a serious commitment.

    "I want to speak to the issue of the cancer studies. I just want to read to you the conclusions of the HEI report on oxygenates added to gasoline which concluded the following: "The mechanisms by which exposure to high concentrations of MTBE or TBA (tertiary butyl alcohol, a metabolite and breakdown product of MTBE) causes tumor formation in different organ systems of mice or rats are not understood. In accepting the overall significance of the cumulative data produced by the studies investigating MTBE and TBA in rodents, the most disconcerting aspect of the findings is that the two chemicals produce tumors at five different organ sites in two species. Considering that the mechanisms of action of these and other non-mutagenic rodent carcinogens are poorly understood, it would seem imprudent to dismiss these results as irrelevant to the human condition."

    "I think that's very important. These are major studies that have been done. They are all positive in terms of their findings, and they have to be taken quite seriously.

    "There will be people who will testify before you who will say if you look at mechanistic considerations, we should ignore the mouse liver tumors, we should ignore the renal male rat tumors, that we should ignore the testicular tumors, and that we need Maltoni's slides to look at his pathology and so on and so forth. But be very careful because those arguments are being made in a way that I think serve the interests of those making the arguments, and I think what we have to say is we don't know very much about mechanisms, and we should not accept mechanistic arguments that are not well founded or validated. It flies against the basic fundamentals of science, and so I would argue with you today that all of those studies are scientifically adequate and that we don't have a proper understanding of scientific mechanisms to ignore them. They have to be taken quite seriously."{U2.27.10

    Dr. Jorge Mancillas: "I'm a neurobiologist by training. I received a bachelor degree in psychology, University of California, Berkeley; Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of California San Diego; I received post doctoral training at the Salk Institute ...Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge England; and for eight years I was a member of the faculty of the department of neurobiology at UCLA.

    "I wish to bring to your attention very briefly what I think is a major issue that has not been adequately addressed, ... underscores the urgency of taking measures to identify the existing risks both by MTBE whether it is by inhalation from the air, or by ingestion from the water supply.

    "The point that has been ignored is that MTBE is a neurotoxic substance. Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether is an ether. Ether's have been in use for over 150 years -- since they were first used in Boston by William Horton, a dentist, as an anesthetic, for their ability to affect the nervous system; that's what ethers do. The reason they are not in use any more is because of the property that ... dangerous in the surgical operation room because they could cause fires.

    "The organs that are most and first perfused in the blood that has been exposed to MTBE are the kidney, the liver, and the brain. Animal studies that were conducted with the collaboration of industry by the Bushy Run Research Center from 1988 to 1989 in a period of less than a year show in rat studies under acute and subchronic exposure that MTBE is a neurotoxic substance. The Alaska studies which were conducted by the CDC and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services show the clear correlation between exposure, occupational or by commuters, to MTBE and elevated levels in the blood of MTBE and signs of CNS dysfunction. I will list them in the written presentation.

    "Similar health effects indicative of serious disruption of nervous system function have been reported in Montana, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Maine, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Colorado. And the risk of exposure, and the risk of neurotoxic effects after exposure has not been adequately addressed.

    Bonnie Holmes Ginn, Sierra Club-California: "We are in strong support of this bill (SB-1189). We think it addresses the very real ground water problems from MTBE contamination, and there's one thing we know for certain about pipelines, and that is that at some point pipelines will leak. And much of our underground pipeline infrastructure is thirty to fifty years or older. And this presents a real problem. We are strongly supportive of the increased monitoring requirements, especially for pipelines that are in close proximity to groundwater aquifers, and the increased oversight over storage tanks above an underground leakage."{U2.27.12

    The Gazelle, California Grange (No.380) and the Older Women's League of California have each submitted letters supporting SB-521.{U2.27.13

    In Sacramento, California, as in Augusta, Maine, there was solid citizen support for restrictions on MTBE; and in California, as in Maine, there was opposition to such restrictions from high-level environmental officials who lined up with fuel lobbyists to praise the virtues of MTBE and to oppose its removal from gasoline. "There were so many industry lobbyists here, they were packed in the hall like sardines", said Nancy Leneis, senior aide to Sen. Richard Mountjoy.{U2.27.14

    Heading the list of MTBE supporters and SB-521 opponents was a California Air-Resources Board manager, Joan Denton, who informed the Transportation Committee that MTBE "is a key point of our clean air plan" and that testimony from SB-521 proponents was "anecdotal", not "sound science".{U2.28 Displaying a copy of the National Research Council's 1996 report on MTBE,{U2.29 Denton proclaimed that "sound science" (NRC report) finds no evidence that acute health effects are caused by MTBE -- with the "exception" of effects reported by persons having "occupational" proximity with MTBE.

    Denton's enthusiasm for the NRC Report is understandable. It allows her to endorse MTBE because she feels that acute health effects are limited to those in "occupational" proximity to MTBE -- such as Alaska taxi drivers who, according to the NRC Report itself, experienced "headaches, vomiting, dizziness, disorientation, or eye irritation".{U2.30

    A witness for the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment characterized the NRC Report as "comprehensive".

    Of course, the NRC Report cannot realistically be characterized as either "sound science" or as "comprehensive" -- any more than can a newspaper, for instance. The NRC Report authors were assigned to review an existing interagency report (OSTP Report){U2.31 which itself was a review of yet other studies. "The committee was not provided with the original sources of data from which the interagency report (OSTP Report) was written, so a full and complete critique of scientific credibility, comprehensiveness, and internal consistency of the data was not possible within the constraints of this study."{U2.30.1 Thus, by their own account, the NRC Report authors were well insulated from whatever "sound science" they may have sought to evaluate.

    Transportation Committee member Sen. Tom Hayden, a key supporter of SB-521 and sponsor of SB-1189, echoed the views of many constituents when he declared:

    Sen. Richard Mountjoy said:

    Both SB-521 and SB-1189 passed the California Legislature with strong bipartisan support. However, as in Maine, and as Sen. Mountjoy warned, SB-521 was amended to sidestep an immediate ban on MTBE; instead another study will be done, with the Governor then making the decision to keep or to discontinue MTBE gasoline.

    To be performed by the University of California, this study is considerably more comprehensive than is Maine's study (that may simply recommend changing Maine's standard for MTBE in drinking water). The $500,000 California effort is to assess risks and benefits of MTBE to human health and the environment in all states where MTBE has been used at levels in gasoline of 10% or more for 5 years. Investigated will be: how oxygenates affect air, water, soil; how fuel affects storage tanks; what exhaust from watercraft does to water in reservoirs; how oxygenates affect automotive seals and other parts; the various ways MTBE gets into surface, ground, and drinking water; the possible links between MTBE and the incidence of asthma; and the combustion products resulting from use of MTBE in gasoline. New research necessary to a comprehensive assessment will be funded.{U2.34

    SB-1189 requires: establishment of an MTBE water standard, a mapping system for fuel storage tanks, records of MTBE discharges, public funding for emergency cleanup of MTBE-fuel spills, and public water-system pursuit of clean-up costs from those who contaminate water supplies.{U2.35

    On October 9, 1997, Governor Pete Wilson signed both SB-521 and SB-1189 into law. This is a significant victory for the people of California -- a victory for which the citizens of the whole Country should be grateful.

    MTBE -- California Groundwater Pollution

    Meanwhile, a pipeline leak threatens the California town of Elmira. "A gigantic scrubber sits in the middle of this tiny farming community, clipping the view of Mt. Diablo to the south and the oak studded Vaca hills to the west. Elmira residents will listen to the rattle and hum of the big machine for as many as 10 years, as it filters out petroleum products that seeped into the groundwater..."{U2.36

    In the little town of Glenville, an MTBE polluted well supplies drinking water to Frieda Kubas. On July 7, 1997 her well was determined to be polluted with 3300 ppb of MTBE:

    At Lake Tahoe, perchlorethylene, a cleaning solvent, is showing up in local wells, and an MTBE plume is approaching the area's main water wells. Says Rick Hydrick, Manager of Water Operations at the South Tahoe Public Utility District (STPUD):

    The Sacramento Bee reports that contaminants from gasoline-powered watercraft are collecting "at an alarming rate in Lake Tahoe". A study from the University of Nevada in Reno finds MTBE contamination as high as 47 ppb. The maximum benzene level found was 1.9 ppb.{U2.37.1

    Placer County Water Agency Board Chairman Walter Fickewirth has written USEPA Administrator Carol Browner protesting that:

    And now, a less-used gasoline additive (oxygenate) is showing up in California groundwater. Tertiary Amyl Methyl Ether (TAME) "is undergoing a battery of health effects tests required by the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, which allows the product to remain on the market pending the results."{U2.38.1

    "Those tests so far indicate that the compound behaves much like MTBE in water -- highly mobile and resistant to natural breakdown -- and poses about the same risks to humans, industry and government say."{U2.38.2

    On July 24, 1997, Hal Stocker, Chairman of the Yuba County Board of Supervisors and Chairman of the Feather River Air Quality Management District, told the California EPA:

  • "While we are concerned that the current levels of ozone in the ambient air are contributing to public health problems, we do not support the replacement of one environmental hazard with a new environmental hazard that may have a much greater public health risk. The substitution of an environmentally safe gasoline oxygenate for MTBE should be a number one priority.
  • "Please consider our concerns and know that we fully support the immediate removal of MTBE from gasoline sold in California."{U2.38.3

    On September 24, 1997, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote USEPA Administrator Carol M. Browner asking that the EPA "move as quickly as possible to examine the possible contamination of our nation's groundwater by gasoline additives such as Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE). ...I would personally appreciate your advice on what legislative action I might pursue to amend the Clean Air Act to protect our air quality without sacrificing our groundwater".{U2.38.3.1

    In late September, 1997, it was reported that the Lake Tahoe Regional Planning Agency rejected a delay in the phaseout of carbureted two-cycle marine engines at Lake Tahoe. Toxic compounds, including MTBE, have been found throughout the Lake, as deep as 100 feet in the middle. MTBE was detected "at every near-shore location tested".{U2.38.3.2

    Donner Lake is at 5936 feet elevation, about 10 miles northwest of Lake Tahoe. It's MTBE pollution rose from 0.1 ppb in April 1997 to 2 ppb by the 4th of July. Over that weekend, the MTBE level rose sixfold to 12 ppb. The most likely source of MTBE pollution in Donner Lake is "fuel exhaust from two- cycle engine watercraft".{U2.38.3.3 Most of the pollution was distributed throughout the upper 35 feet of the 260-foot-deep lake. The University of California at Davis conducted the study on Donner Lake and estimated that over the 4th of July weekend, more than 550 pounds of MTBE were discharged into the Lake from watercraft.

    Major Gasoline Refiner Warns About MTBE

    On October 17, 1997, the Tosco Corporation, California's third largest gasoline refiner, asked the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to "Take decisive action immediately to begin to move away from MTBE". Tosco vice president Duane Bordvick told the San Francisco Chronicle he wants a dialog with state officials to seek ways to get rid of it. "Water contamination is what is driving us. This problem is growing every day, and it is going to be very costly to solve. So we think it is better to deal with it now rather than look back and say we should have done something sooner."{U2.38.3.4

    Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) launches "BAN MTBE-NOW!"

    On October 17, 1997, CBE, a California environmental-justice organization, announced its campaign to ban MTBE as a gasoline additive in California.

    "CBE wants to give the public the tools they need to BAN MTBE-NOW rather than to leave it to the politicians and the oil companies who want to study the problem forever", said Denny Larson, Northern California Director of CBE. "That's why we are recommending a possible ballot initiative to ensure the people control the outcome, not the politicians!"{U2.38.3.5

    CBE routinely challenges large corporations to invest a portion of their profits to prevent pollution and protect public health and safety. CBE campaigns for "zero discharge" of dioxin at every source and has successfully challenged this year in federal court a major oil refinery's discharge of selenium into San Francisco Bay. CBE is suing refineries, the State, and the South Coast Air Quality District charging that their program which crushes cars for pollution credits violates the civil rights of a predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood.{U2.38.3.6 CBE has been challenging the use, and proposed use, of MTBE in California gasoline for each of the past 7 years.

    EPA Orders New MTBE Tests -- 7 Years Late

    The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires all Federal agencies to "include, in every recommendation or report on proposals for legislation and other major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, a detailed statement by the responsible official on the environmental impact of the proposed action ..."{U2.38.4

    The vehicle defined by the NEPA statute to establish, discuss, and document the environmental impacts of government actions is called the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).{U2.38.5 In 1995, in response to a Freedom of Information request on environmental impact statements, the EPA Office of Air and Radiation wrote, "There are no documents responsive to your request for environmental impact statements related to the use of oxygenated gasolines".{U2.38.6 My own inquiry at EPA Headquarters in Washington DC produced the same response, namely that there has been no EIS prepared on MTBE or other fuel oxygenates.{U2.38.7

    Subsequently, I was sorrowed to learn from Robert Judge (EPA Region-I office in Boston) that under the Energy Supply and Environmental Coordination Act of 1974 (a law heretofore unfamiliar to me and apparently forgotten by some EPA officials) EPA actions are exempt from NEPA as long as they are taken under the umbrella of the Clean Air Act!{U2.38.8

    Thus, concerning MTBE, the EPA has been able to avoid preparing an EIS on the plans for widespread introduction of a hazardous chemical [MTBE] into our environment. Instead, MTBE became part of a nationwide experiment intended to "significantly affect the human environment (presumably in a positive way)"; EPA's "strategy" was to use MTBE to reduce pollution from carbon monoxide and from ozone. This approach, using the unsuspecting public as guinea pigs, ended up polluting water and generating widespread health complaints, because the EPA took on MTBE without adequate testing{U2.38.9 -- not totally unlike what happened with poisonous tetraethyl lead -- no longer permitted in gasoline, but having been for years.

    The absence of an EIS was a boon to the oxyfuel industry which, with no federal agency to run interference for the public interest, has been busy touting the praises of MTBE to receptive public officials from Maine to California.

    Can there be a more cynical use of the "law" than for the U.S. Congress to enable the EPA to employ the Clean Air Act as a loophole for a program that encourages industry to profit from the less-than-responsible use of a hazardous chemical that pollutes our water?

    But MTBE contamination of the Santa Monica, California water supply and the North Carolina citizen lawsuit against the Conoco Oil Company for benzene and MTBE water-pollution may have finally awakened the EPA. On August 20, 1997, seven years after the Clean Air Act Amendments which mandated the use of oxyfuels,{U2.38.10 the EPA, under a provision of the Clean Air Act,{U2.38.11 prepared a 35-page letter directing the petroleum industry to commence an exhaustive 5-year series of laboratory health tests of MTBE gasoline, other oxygenated gasolines, and conventional gasolines to determine their safety for use around people, air, water, and the ground.{U2.38.12

    Presumably the MTBE-in-gasoline experiment with the public at large (as guinea pigs) will continue, while the EPA embarks on its belated five-year program of laboratory studies to determine if MTBE is safe.

    The EPA has gone all out for the fuel industry to which it has granted the right to choose peer reviewers for the new tests, as well as the right to keep confidential the authorship of peer-reviewer commentary. Such effrontery raises the question of whether the new tests have been proposed to simply preempt the pending State of California study by throwing the prestige of the EPA-engineered operation behind an "examination" of the problems of oxygenates -- an examination that would be less than rigorous, and that would thus favor once again the oxyfuel industry.

    On October 6, I wrote to EPA Administrator Carol Browner complaining about peer-review confidentiality and asking that "the EPA abandon its support of oxygenated fuels until such time as their safety might be demonstrated". The thrust of my letter was ignored in a response from the office of EPA Fuels and Energy Chief Charles N. Freed.{U2.38.13

    Before I wrote to Browner, I had asked an official at EPA Headquarters in Washington how the EPA could justify keeping authorship of peer-reviewer comments confidential. I was told, "Only a few people are qualified to peer review the work [and] we know who they all are".{U2.38.14

    - Plus ca change, plus la meme chose -

    Last-Minute, Pre-publication Bulletins

    The text of this book was completed early in November 1997. A month later, the COMMITTEE held its final meeting at the Maine State House -- with the omnipresent oxyfuel lobbyists "standing guard" (December 2).

    COMMITTEE Co-chairman Verdi Tripp asked why, with the present public concern over MTBE health problems, is the Health Bureau proposing to raise the permitted level of MTBE concentration in drinking water. The proposal's author, State Toxicologist Andrew Smith, responded that the Health Department had to be sure that its proposal, to raise the MTBE Health Advisory level from 50 ppb to 70 ppb, was "scientifically sound", and that 70 ppb was what the calculations show the correct level to be.

    In March, 1997, Smith's assistant, state toxicologist Philip Kemp, told me that his office had confirmed Myron Mehlman's calculation that, for a lifetime daily intake of 2 liters of water laced with 8.75 ppb of MTBE, the cancer- death risk-factor is one in a million.{U2.39.1 Mehlman had proposed that Maine lower its health advisory level for MTBE to 5 ppb in drinking water. In New Jersey where Mehlman resides, the State Safe Drinking Water Act prescribes that the maximum level of a chemical in drinking water shall be such as to "permit cancer in no more than one in one million persons ingesting that chemical for a lifetime."{U2.39.2

    Today, Smith is proposing a cancer risk eight times that high -- one MTBE cancer death for every 125,000 citizens of Maine! As Myron Mehlman told the Maine and California Legislatures in the spring of 1997, "Exposure [risk] numbers are body counts".{U2.39.3

    I asked the COMMITTEE to recommend removal of top Health Bureau management for, among other things, proposing to raise the health advisory level of MTBE in Maine drinking water from the present 50 ppb -- to 70 ppb.{U2.39.4

    But the COMMITTEE wasn't about to take measures sufficiently radical to protect public health. It couldn't even muster the courage to adopt the MTBE drinking-water health-advisory level of 5 ppb advocated as a maximum by Myron Mehlman and written into a bill by the COMMITTEE's own co-chair, Rep. Verdi Tripp (LD-658-1997). Instead, it adopted a politically correct "report"{U2.39.5 recommending more MTBE studies by MTBE enthusiasts at the Bureau of Health. And by unanimous vote, the COMMITTEE recommended that the Department of Human Services (Bureau of Health) adopt a "legally enforceable primary drinking water standard for MTBE in public water systems". The COMMITTEE Report made no comment on the already announced Bureau of Health plan to raise the MTBE-in-drinking-water health advisory to 70 ppb -- a level 1400% above the maximum level recommended by Mehlman! The MTBE lobby seemed pretty happy with its day's work. It should be.

    To cap the day off came news from the West Coast of the second company to abandon{U2.39.6 the oxygenated fuels "community"; the Chevron Corporation wants the U.S. Congress to repeal mandates for oxygenates:

    says a December 1, 1997 news release from Dave O'Reilly, president of the Chevron Products Company.{U2.39.7

    On December 8, the USEPA announced a reduction of the maximum level of MTBE in the USEPA advisory for drinking water.{U2.39.8 The new advisory level is a "range" running from 20 to 40 ppb; before December 8, this range was "20 to 200 ppb.{U2.39.9

    The advisory document comprises many pages of largely self-serving rubric to explain why MTBE is not as dangerous as EPA's belated decision to lower its advisory would suggest.

    The Health Effects Analysis for the new advisory avoids actual health-risk figures (body counts) in favor of what is called a "Reference Dose", defined as: "an estimate (with uncertainty spanning approximately an order of magnitude) of a daily exposure to the human population (including sensitive subgroups) that is likely to be without appreciable risk of deleterious effects over a lifetime".

    A particularly chilling aspect of the EPA action is the importance the EPA has ascribed to "consumer acceptability", rather than to public health:

    By any credible standard this EPA action is far from adequate, but it is a step, and it is in the right direction!

    On December 9, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer convened a hearing in Sacramento California on the MTBE controversy, and said she will ask the EPA to invoke emergency powers to reduce the widespread use of a gasoline additive credited with cleaning the air but polluting water. Said Boxer, "This is a problem that is spreading. ...We have enough information; we've got to stop the problem now".{U2.39.10 California lawmakers backed Boxer, calling for tighter standards to protect the state's water supply where MTBE has been detected in 25 reservoirs. California State Senator Richard Mountjoy testified that private wells have shown levels as high as 200,000 ppb.{U2.39.11

    David Spath, California's Chief of Drinking Water and Environmental Management, testified that California is now recommending lowering the allowed MTBE level in California drinking water [from 35 ppb] to 5 ppb!

    This is the same David Spath who, on April 15, 1997 before the California Senate Transportation Committee, testified that if over the next year the data shows "very little, if any, contamination from MTBE, there may not be a need for a drinking water standard [for MTBE in California]..."!{U2.39.12

    On December 11, the San Francisco Chronicle headline read: "EPA Says it Will Consider Phaseout of Gas Additive". Undoubtedly, we have yet a long way to go on this one, but --

    Whoever said angry citizens don't make a difference!

    Why This Book?

    Much of my earlier Report{U2.40.1 is retained in Dirty Air, Dirty Water. Corrections have been made, and new material appears here and there. The UPDATE Section is new, and its endnote numbers, prefixed with "U2", interrupt the otherwise monotonic endnote sequence.

    This book is a slice of life from a campaign to protect public health and the environment against commercial interests that put profit first. The campaign, which began much too long ago, will never end as long as the election expenses of public officials are paid by those who profit at the expense of public health, the economy, and the environment. Thus this book has no discernable beginning or end, but its contents should be useful to people who may wish to know, in advance, something about today's corporate influence over public officials.

    Once involved in an effort to further environmental justice, one may find that time is better utilized when the initial shock and the ensuing frustration that comes with the continuous revelation of influence peddling and malfeasance in high places can be experienced and contemplated, to some extent, ahead of time. If one knows the nature of what's coming, the trip is much easier -- and less frightening.

    SECTION IX -- Acknowledgments

    For their assistance in the course of his learning about environmental pollution, the author wishes to thank Marian Agnew, Henry Anderson, Larry G. Anderson, Norman T. Anderson, Karen Andrews, Juliette Anthony, Robert and Carol Apsey, Lee Ann Baggot, Lynn Bailey, Beth Berry, Stella Blond, Gregory Bogdan, Jonathan Borak, James Brooks, Robert Brooks, Neil J. Carman, Leighton E. Carver, Barbara Charnes, Kevin Cleary, Paul Coninx, James Richard Cook, Michael Davis, Ronald Deprez, Dave Elshoff, Tom Foote, Gary E. and Beverly J. Franklin, Chuck Freed, Charlene R. Garland, Belinda A. Gerry, Lois Marie Gibbs, Gary Ginsberg, David Gray, Richard Greves, Robert A. Harley, Amy Holland, John Holley, Ron Huber, Ron Hutchins, Peter M. Joseph, Robert Judge, Philip Kemp, Dennis L. Keschl, John J. Kneiss, David Korotney, David Kortum, David Lauren, Nancy Leneis, Stephen Lester, Kim Bruce Livo, Glenys Lovett, Alan D. Margolis, Lynn Mazur, Maureen McClelland, Jeff McGilvray, Clifton Michaelsen, Edward F. Miller, R. Neal Olson, Charles Peters, Henry R. Piehler, Joseph Piernock, Gloria Pillsbury, Kenneth M. Rudo, Huel C. Scherrer, Andrew E. Smith, Edward O. Sullivan, Verdi Tripp, Jim Van Dell, Richard Verville, Aristo Vojdani, Jodi Waters, Lester Wyborney; the Coordinating Research Council (Auto/Oil Air Quality Improvement Research Program), the California Air Resources Board which provided me a copy of the California Predictive Model with which anyone with a DOS-operated personal computer can, within certain limits, display instantly the predicted combustion-emission properties of a gasoline of given formulation; and the staffs of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Maine Bureau of Health, and the Maine State Legislative Library.

    Very special thanks goes to:

    SECTION X -- The Author

    Julian C. Holmes, a Maine native, is a retired atmospheric physicist who spent much of his adult life in Washington DC and Prince George's County, Maryland. An environmentalist, he investigated the role of public officials in the enforcement of health and safety laws, and with the support of a courageous local newspaper editor, Holmes and fellow citizens obtained indictments of Maryland health officials.{34.5

    Holmes and his associates pursued wrongdoing in both federal and local government; several targets of their investigations were eventually convicted of federal crimes.{34.6. Holmes has appeared before numerous grand juries, and in testimony before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, he and colleague Marian Agnew asked that the Senate protect the right of citizens to request appearance before federal grand juries -- a right that was threatened by an ultimately unsuccessful proposal to abolish it.{34.7

    In Maine, Holmes has advocated opening up heretofore restricted meetings of Maine and Federal officials so that citizens may attend.{34.8

    Holmes was born in Portland, Maine and lived in Brunswick prior to his employment at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. He resides in Wayne.

    APPENDIX 1 -- Findings

    APPENDIX 2 -- Recommendations for Evaluating, and Restoring Public Confidence in the Administration of Environmental-Protection and Public-Health Matters in Maine

    1. We the People should become familiar with the credentials of parties who proffer information on "clean air" or "clean water" programs. Too many officials, whose salaries are paid by us taxpayers, tell us what the Oxygenated Fuels Association wants us to hear.
    2. The COMMITTEE should consider placing witnesses under oath. If current law prohibits such a requirement, then legislation is needed.
    3. The COMMITTEE should consider requiring witnesses to make public the fees paid to appear before the COMMITTEE. If current law prohibits such a requirement, then legislation is needed.
      • [On July 25, 1996, Scott Baker testified before the COMMITTEE on behalf of the Oxygenated Fuels Association. In order that the COMMITTEE may develop a comprehensive picture of the politics as well as the facts behind the aggressive campaign to sell MTBE-RFG fuel in Maine, The COMMITTEE should consider requesting of Baker the amount of his fee and expenses for that appearance and exactly who paid him. Such information on the sources of financial, or other, support of witnesses may be as important as actual testimony. It should be made available to the COMMITTEE as a matter of practice, by every witness.]
    4. Political contributions from corporations should be banned in Maine.
    5. We should take note of North Carolina's abandonment of MTBE as a gasoline oxygenate{34.9 and compare the North Carolina story with both that told by Maine Governor King's Task Force on RFG, as well as that told by the somewhat similar Wisconsin study.{34.10
    6. We should examine reports from the oil industry and other sources that oxygenated fuel may deteriorate certain engine components and cause fires.{34.11
    7. In order to get to the bottom of the MTBE story, We the People should file Freedom of Information (FOI) requests with Maine and Federal agencies -- the Maine Health Bureau, MDEP, the Maine Governor's office, and the USEPA.
      • [With FOIs, in the past two years I confirmed: (1) improper secret negotiations on the Sears Island Cargo Port project, and (2) predetermined conclusions that guided the Maine Governor's controversial forestry study.{34.12]
    8. We the People should consider the use of grand juries to help with investigating government behavior such as the expenditure of public monies on non-credible I/M and MTBE programs.{35.1 Long established in common law, a grand jury of our peers can investigate virtually anything it wants, free from the interference of lobbyists or public officials. The Grand Jury is one of the few institutions of democracy that is relatively free of the political pressures that weigh so heavily on judges and prosecutors. It is often the only institution that can handle an investigation into possible government mischief or cover-up.{35.2 A grand jury could help with establishing whether Maine's top officials are simply unable to cope with the pressures from corporate America that come with cleaning up dirty water and dirty air -- or whether such officials are negligent, as in the case of the U.S. Department of Defense cover-up of illnesses suffered by veterans of the Persian Gulf War.{35.2.1 In any case, we in Maine need critical review of the administration of these equally important areas of human and environmental health.
      • In Maryland, citizens, including myself, presented a grand jury with evidence of wrongdoing in the Prince George's County Health Department. Two indictments resulted from our work: the Prince George's County State Health Officer and his Assistant were removed from their positions.{35.3
      • In Washington DC, my testimony before the Watergate Grand Jury resulted in no indictment. But that activity served to focus public attention on what I alleged were violations of federal laws by prominent Washington-area public figures. Those same public figures had been involved as partners in the Skyline Towers apartment building (Falls Church, Virginia) that in 1973 collapsed under construction, killing 14 workers.{35.4 Information collected for various grand juries helped the family of one of the victims win a damage suit against the building's engineers.{35.5
      • The performance of Maine Health Bureau and Department of Environmental Protection officials should be examined in the light of recent publicity about official reporting of coPCB pollution in Maine rivers.{35.6
      • Paul Coninx has found and demonstrated that EPA's I/M policy on motor-vehicle-generated pollution is not credible.{35.7 I find the same is true with respect to EPA policy and Maine State policy on oxygenated fuels.{35.8]
      • Unfortunately for the people of Maine, there is a provision in current Maine law to discourage citizen approach to grand juries. In 1953, during the McCarthy era when peoples' basic rights were being routinely violated (more than usual) by government zeal to stamp out "dissension", the Maine Legislature did its part to limit citizen access to meaningful justice by enacting what is now Section 1256, 15 MRSA (Maine Revised Statutes Annotated).
      • That single legislative act stole from the people of Maine a relief traditional under common law -- that of offering evidence of official malfeasance to a grand jury of peers. Thus, public access to an effective institution of democracy (the grand jury) was replaced with a truly anti- democratic requirement that the Attorney General, a prosecutor, or a judge would have to give permission for a citizen to approach the grand jury.
      • In 1977, citizens successfully protested Congressional proposals to criminalize a person's right to approach a federal grand jury.{35.9 In Maine, we were not so lucky.
    9. The people of Maine should consider petitioning onto the ballot a repeal of 15-MRSA-1256 -- a frightening vestige of McCarthyism.
    10. People, animals, and plants suffer from bad air. They don't deserve to. Industry profits from snake-oil remedies for bad air. It doesn't deserve to. We should abandon oxygenated fuel as well as any plans for complex CARTEST strategies in Maine, and get on with constructive, rather than destructive and ineffective, clean-air therapy.
    11. We the People should demand that credible administrators be in charge of keeping Maine air and water -- cleaner.
    12. In spite of overwhelming evidence on the ineffectiveness and the health hazards of Maine's MTBE oxygenated-fuel strategy, and because the Health Bureau has recommended raising the allowable level of MTBE in drinking water, the COMMITTEE should request that top management in this department of State Government be replaced and reassigned to positions not involving public- health-policy responsibility.

    APPENDIX 3 -- Recommendations for Cleaning Up Maine's Air and Water

    1. First of all, Governor King should be supported in his effort to place responsibility for Maine's air pollution on jurisdictions where the pollution originates. True success will result in cleaner industrial smokestacks and will force automobile manufacturers to clean up their products.
    2. The Maine Health Advisory Level for MTBE in water should be reduced from 50 ppb to 5 ppb (or less) as in LD-658-1997 (Representative Verdi Tripp, Topsham).
    3. At least equal in utility to a "Pollution Credit Bank" for handling emissions credit trading{36.2 would be an "Escrow Bank" where appropriate amounts of monies destined for payment of federal taxes could be deposited in the event the Federal Government continues to threaten sanctions against Maine for failing to follow scientifically unsound methods to handle air pollution.{36.3 Rep. Verdi Tripp presented such legislation in LD-660, Maine Legislature, First Regular Session 1997.
    4. As a primary weapon against air pollution, Maine should review its policies on energy conservation, in, but not limited to, the following areas: residential and industrial insulation, energy-conserving electric lighting, 4- day work week, water conservation, more-efficient electric refrigeration, and solar-power research. "It costs society less to protect the environment through greater efficiency than through expensive pollution-control technologies."{36.4 [The United States comprises about 5% of the world population and consumes about 24% of the world's energy.{36.5]
    5. Maine should exert its political muscle to require that manufacturers design more sensible, cleaner automobiles equipped with less fragile, anti- pollution devices. Malfunction of these electronic and mechanical gadgets is difficult to analyze without specialized equipment.{36.6 That they are required on automobiles is, in effect, a guaranteed income for the car-repair industry, and a further burden on poor people who cannot afford the luxury of "hired help". The argument that in our high-tech world today, automobile service must require more-expensive, high-tech equipment or extraordinary intelligence should be no more valid than to argue that the care and feeding of a high-tech Model-T required more intelligence than handling the horse it replaced.
    6. Detroit's fleet of vehicles of tomorrow must, on the average, have smaller engines that emit less and cleaner exhaust gas -- not just more complex, add-on, anti-pollution paraphernalia. Amory and Hunter Lovins report that technology exists to produce practical, ultra-light, gasoline-electric (hybrid), passenger vehicles that travel well over 100 miles per gallon of gasoline. They say such cars, "not imported luxury sedans, are the biggest threats to Detroit" ... but that "they are also Detroit's hope of salvation"; and that such cars might be less polluting than so-called zero-emission electric vehicles (ZEV's) which require recharging from conventional electric power plants that pollute the air.{36.7 [Toyota plans to be selling a mass- produced hybrid vehicle in the Japan home market by the end of 1997.{36.8]
    7. Maine should consider requiring a non-oxygenated, low vapor-pressure, low-sulphur gasoline for non-attainment areas -- or the whole State.{37.1
    8. Maine should consider the work of Henry Piehler et al. at Carnegie- Mellon University who have found that controlling air pollution by testing cars is far more expensive (per pound of pollutant) than controlling air pollution from industrial smokestacks.{37.2 Maine must take the burden of air pollution off the backs of taxpayers and place that responsibility where it belongs -- squarely on industry!
    9. Maine should inventory the stack pollutants and power-generation performance of electric power sources that sell power in Maine with a view toward evaluating the efficiency and operating costs of our present electric- power generators, as well as the suitability and environmental compatibility of Maine electricity to recharge electric automobiles.
    10. Maine should upgrade its traditional annual automobile inspection procedures to include the checking of engine timing and PCV-valve operation.
    11. Maine should encourage automobile service and filling stations to provide free air so that drivers are motivated to maintain sufficient pressure in tires for better fuel economy.{37.3
    12. Maine should start taking seriously the Natural Resources Council of Maine recommendations for increased investment in alternative transportation, and for reducing unfair subsidies for heavy trucks.{37.4
    13. Maine should encourage the redesign of truck and trailer bodies with appropriate streamlining, front and back.{37.5 At highway speeds, air friction can be the largest single drain on engine power.
    14. Maine should consider the proposal by Tom Foote of Hiram which outlines a workable and currently available approach to utilizing existing vehicles for rural and urban transportation.{37.6
    15. Maine should ensure that automobile drivers, who volunteer to participate in alternative transportation programs, are provided with adequate, affordable, liability insurance.{37.7
    16. If Maine's Government is to be serious about air pollution, it should consider a real-life program to cut air-polluting emissions from cars by, say, 25%. This could be accomplished in a combination of steps such as establishing a 4-day, 36-hour work week, and restricting parking in urban areas. Citizens would likely be enthusiastic about such a venture, because they themselves would be part of a cost- and pollution-cutting program. Many people would welcome user-friendly public transportation if it were made available as an alternative to automobile trips.
    17. Maine's I/M testing experience was an extraordinarily expensive exercise to show that well-maintained cars pollute less -- something we already knew. With regard to current federal requirements for enhanced automobile inspection in the Portland area,{38.1 there should be no return to I/M CARTEST, or any other complex car testing, anywhere in Maine. Any car testing should be performed at existing inspection stations as part of the existing annual motor-vehicle safety inspection.
    18. Starting with 1999 models, Maine could charge a reasonable annual fee for registering passenger cars with horsepower in excess of 150. Starting with year-2002 models, the annual fee would cover horsepower in excess of 120.
    19. Starting in 1999, for out-of-state passenger cars, Maine could consider admitting, without charge, only those with less than 150 horsepower; and in 2002, less than 120 horsepower. Cars not meeting this requirement would be charged a reasonable daily fee while in the State. Payment of this fee would be at numerous convenient locations. Enforcement would be by spot check.
    20. To reduce automobile traffic and to create meaningful employment opportunities, Maine should encourage: (1) establishment of local stores for perishable goods, and (2) inexpensive transportation from satellite lots to regional shopping facilities. Maine should also establish a system of local delivery of perishables and other food to households.{38.2
    21. Some health insurance plans may have insufficient numbers of participating local physicians. Increased participation can shorten distances people travel to obtain medical care. Maine should encourage insurance vendors and physicians to negotiate for adequate physician enrollment.{38.3
    22. Maine should present to the EPA a comprehensive, Designed in Maine, clean-air effort that includes significant energy-conservation measures.
    23. Ban pollution-credit-trading-programs whereby affordable transportation is destroyed (older-model automobiles crushed) to generate pollution credits (licenses) for industry to increase its pollution.

    FIGURE 1

    A plot of the Annual Averages of Ozone Concentrations (Second-highest daily maximum 1-hour concentrations from 62 eastern USEPA ozone-monitoring sites for the years 1986 - 1995). Over the past 7 years of low ozone variability, the maximum ozone deviation from the mean was 8%; the root-mean-square deviation from the mean was 4%, and the 1995 ozone level was .4% above that of 1989.

    FIGURE 2

    Bar-graph of the Percentage Increase or Decrease in the Total Number of Hours that Exceed the Maine Ozone Health Advisory Standard (81 ppb) at each of Six Measurement Sites in 1995, compared to the Average Exceedance-Hour Total for 1994 and 1995 at each Site. Source: Maine DEP, Bureau of Air Quality, Annual Reports on Air Quality, 1994 and 1995.

     Bar Harbor      + 74%
     Cape Elizabeth  +  4%
     Gardiner        - 41%
     Jonesport       + 46%
     Kennebunkport   + .6% 
     Phippsburg      + 11%

    FIGURE 3

    Two graphs show the predicted impact of "fuel options" on both VOC and NOx automobile emissions: namely that, nationwide, a VOC-reduction strategy won't keep up with CAA requirements after 1999; and, most important, NOx, which should be reduced in Maine (in order to reduce ozone) will not be lowered by the oxygenated gasoline used in Maine (Federal RFG).{12.2 RFG gasoline may be able to lower NOx if it is a low-sulphur, California-like formula; but to maximize NOx reduction, oxygenates may have to be abandoned.

    FIGURE 4(a)

    On acute health effects associated with oxygenates, "the epidemiologic data currently available do not establish a causal relationship between exposure to gasoline containing MTBE and the development of symptoms"

    The NAS went on to recommend that further investigation is needed before conclusions can be reached on acute health effects.

    [EPA Viewgraph #27]

    The committee believes that while the epidemiologic data currently available do not establish a causal relationship between exposure to gasoline containing MTBE and the development of symptoms, the studies do indicate that some people have experienced acute symptoms associated with exposure to gasoline containing MTBE. Limitations of the studies make it difficult to rule out the possibility of an association between exposure to gasoline containing MTBE and acute symptoms, and the studies contain enough suggestion of a dose-response effect to motivate further investigation.

    [Complete Statement: NRC Committee Report, p.97.]

    FIGURE 4(b)

    Regarding carcinogenicity, NAS concluded that "...it does not appear that MTBE exposures resulting from the use of oxygenated fuels are likely to pose a substantial human health risk," but recommended further research in this area as well.

    [EPA Viewgraph #28]

    The committee has made a number of recommendations for refinements and improvements in the assessment of potential human health risks associated with prolonged exposures to gasoline containing MTBE and for assessment of the comparative risks associated with oxygenated and nonoxygenated fuels. Until these recommendations are acted upon, no definitive statement can be made regarding these health-risk issues. Based on the available analyses, however, it does not appear that MTBE exposures resulting from the use of oxygenated fuels are likely to pose a substantial human health risk.

    [Complete Statement: NRC Committee Report, p.138]

    FIGURE 5

    Reproduced here are Figures 5 and 6 from Peter Joseph's paper: "Changes in Disease Rates in Philadelphia Following the Introduction of Oxygenated Gasoline" presented at the Air & Waste Management Association's 90th Annual Meeting & Exhibition, June 8-13, 1997, in Toronto. Joseph's Figure 5 plots the average Philadelphia ozone maximum against the average summer temperature, from 1993 to 1996. Joseph's Figure 6 plots the number of annual exceedances of the ozone standard in Southeastern Pennsylvania from 1982 to 1996. The data covers periods when RFG was not used and when RFG was used.

    Constants and Conversion Factors

     ppm      =  parts per million
     ppb      =  parts per billion
     gr       =  gram. 
     28.35 gr =  1 oz.
     1 gr     =  1 million micrograms (ug)
     L        =  Liter
     1000 L   =  1 cubic meter (m3)
     At normal atmospheric pressure, ANY gas, of amount equal to its molecular
     weight in grams, fills a volume of:
     22.415 L  = .022415 m3 @  0 Deg C.
     24.06  L  = .02406  m3 @ 20 Deg C.
     24.47  L  = .02447  m3 @ 25 Deg C.
           Molecular Weight        Specific Gravity
     MTBE      88.15 AU (atomic units)  .74
     Benzene   78.1                     .88
     Toluene   92.2                     .87
     Xylene   106.2                     .88
     Ozone     48.0                      -
     Oxygen    16.0                      -
     Water     18.0                    1.00
    Oxygen [O] is about 18% (by weight) of MTBE [C(5) H(12) O]. 11% MTBE gasoline
    is about 2% oxygen.
     Equivalence relations (gas):
     MTBE:     (1ppb)v  =  3.7ug/m3  (20 Deg C)
     Benzene:    "      =  3.2  "       "
     Toluene:    "      =  3.8  "       "
     Xylene:     "      =  4.4  "       "
     Ozone:      "      =  2.0  "       "
     Water:      "      =  0.75 "       "
     Equivalence relation (contaminant in water):
     1 ppb = 1 ug/L

    - end -

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