Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Getting Away With It

Erik Kancler at Mother Jones:
Seventeen states have now voted to ban the use of MTBE in gasoline, but the battle over phasing it out nationwide has been held up in Congress by disagreements over who should pay for the mess. Companies responsible for MTBE pollution are counting on congressional allies, not least House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, to make sure things stay that way.

... In late 2003, three House Republicans, DeLay, Billy Tauzin, and Joe Barton, introduced a waiver in the House energy bill that would exempt MTBE producers and distributors from the liabilities they were being exposed to in the courts. Not coincidentally, both DeLay and Barton hail from a state, Texas, with six of the nation's largest MTBE producers, which account for over 80 percent of all MTBE produced in the U.S. (Most of the rest is produced in Louisiana, Tauzin's home state.) Also not coincidentally, oil and gas has been a top industry contributor to both representatives for over 15 years, having raised $558,000 for DeLay and $931,000 for Barton since 1989. In the 2004 election, Lyondell and Valero—two of the top MTBE producers—were among their biggest contributors.
The article details how petroleum polluters are able to buy immunity from Congress. The results are predictable.
Assuming that MTBE will eventually be phased out, Congress has set aside $2 billion to enable oil and gas companies to transition into new fuel sources. But the phase-out date for MTBE—set for December 31st 2014—isn't even assured; the energy bill contains three exemptions that could allow companies to use MTBE indefinitely.
How nice. Not only do they buy immunity from responsibility, but you and I get to pay for their conversion to other fuels - that they will sell to us at a profit. Don't you just love our system government?
While the Senate has asked that risks of future additives be adequately assessed before they're approved for use, the House has rejected such language.
What is it about the House of Representatives that makes it such a legislative backwater? Why is it that every news report on their latest activities generates among the electorate a collective shaking of heads, a string of expletives, or laughter? It seems a prerequisite for leadership within the Congress is a combination of greed, lies and hypocrisy.

You and I, ladies and gentlemen, have done this to ourselves.

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