- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Senate negotiators won their battle in a House-Senate conference committee to keep out of the final version of the energy bill all provisions to help clean up water pollution resulting from the fuel additive MTBE.

Rep. Joe L. Barton, Texas Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was expected to introduce a second compromise amendment to deal with the contamination fallout from methyl-tertiary-butyl ether last night.

But Mr. Barton could not muster enough support from the panel’s senators to agree to the legislation.

“I am glad the MTBE thing got worked out and that gives us encouragement because that is what killed the bill last year,” said Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat.

Republican Senate staffers said there will be no compromise on MTBE, and petroleum industry analysts confirmed there would be no bailout or cleanup fund.

Congress mandated that petroleum producers use the synthetic fuel additive to reduce the amount of harmful automobile emissions 15 years ago, but it has refused to help clean up the mess.

Numerous communities in 36 states have had their drinking-water supplies contaminated by MTBE after the chemical mixed with ground water and well water after seeping through the concrete basins used to house it.

Lobbyists said those affected by the poor taste and smell of the chemical in their water will have to continue to rely on litigation to get legal compensation.

House and Senate Republicans deliberated well into this morning on 70 proposed amendments to the energy bill.

Among those accepted by the Senate were two amendments by Rep. Charles W. “Chip” Pickering Jr., Mississippi Republican.

One would provide grant funding to any company that can come up with clean-coal technologies and the other would let all foreign- or domestic-brand companies that build cars in the United States, receive incentives to build electric-gas hybrid cars or other alternative fuel vehicles.

An amendment offered by Rep. Judy Biggert, Illinois Republican, to create an undersecretary position for nuclear energy was also accepted.

Mrs. Landrieu and the Senate’s negotiators fought through the night to keep a Senate provision in the bill that would give a combined $1 billion to the state governments of the six oil- and gas-producing coastal states — Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Alaska and California.

The funding would be distributed in the amount of $250 million annually over four years beginning in 2007.

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