July 25, 2005
No MTBE liability protection?

Nick Beaudrot, sitting in at Ezra's place, notes this news story about the energy bill and asks "Did Tom DeLay just lose a legislative battle?"

House and Senate conferees abandoned giving makers of the gasoline additive MTBE liability protection against environmental lawsuits on Sunday, removing the major roadblock to enactment of broad energy legislation.

Senate negotiators rejected a House proposal for an $11.4 billion MTBE cleanup fund that House Republicans had hoped would serve as a compromise and still provide the liability shield to the oil industry.

But Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said "the proposal has not been accepted by the Senate" and that he would offer another MTBE proposal on Monday.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., leader of the Senate energy negotiating team, said while some MTBE issues were still being discussed, those did not include a cleanup fund, nor liability protection.

"Those are gone," Domenici told reporters as the House-Senate conferees held an unusual Sunday session in hopes of completing work on a sweeping energy bill by Monday night.

Do a Google News search on +"tom delay" +mtbe and you'll find plenty of cites like this one:

The legal protections have been championed by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), whose state is one of the main producers of the additive. Industry officials have contended that Congress was responsible for promoting the use of MTBE by requiring cleaner-burning gasoline in the nation's smoggiest regions.

On the other hand, there's still a lot of grumbling about the new compromises in the bill, both from Republicans (in particular, the two Senators from New Hampshire, whose state is a plaintiff in an anti-MTBE lawsuit) and Democrats. Passing bills without Democratic support is DeLay's modus operandi, so it's a little premature to update the scoreboard just yet. But it's a good question nonetheless.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 25, 2005 to National news | TrackBack