New Hampshire Representative Seeks Delay of MTBE Liability Waiver to Grandfather N.H. Groundwater Contamination Lawsuit
Even though he voted for the controversial provision in the US House of Representatives' latest energy bill that would relieve manufacturers of gasoline-additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) from liability, Representative Charles Bass (R-NH) is reportedly currently drafting an amendment that would delay the waiver's effective date. Bass faces pressure from his home state to delay the liability waiver in order to preserve groundwater contamination lawsuits filed by the State of New Hampshire and local officials against MTBE manufacturers. By saving his home state's lawsuits, Bass's amendment could help secure the crucial support of New Hampshire Senators Judd Gregg (R) and John Sununu (R). In last year's Congressional fight over the MTBE liability waiver, Bass, Gregg, and Sununu all voted against the House's energy bill containing a similar waiver provision.
H.R. 6, the House's current version of the long-awaited energy bill, contains language that would retroactively bar lawsuits against MTBE manufacturers and distributors that were filed after the waiver's effective date, which is September 5, 2003 in H.R. 6. Numerous suits have been filed by states, counties, and drinking water suppliers, alleging that MTBE has contaminated their drinking water and seeking compensation from manufacturers and distributors. Bass's amendment, if passed, would push the effective date of the waiver back to October 1, 2003, which environmental groups point out would save only a handful of the 155 MTBE lawsuits currently pending. Industry groups oppose any amendment that would delay the effective date of the waiver, since they say that no one date will satisfy everyone. In a tradeoff for his vote in favor of the liability waiver, Bass has also indicated support for establishing a fund, possibly entirely industry-financed, that would help states and counties address contamination cleanup. [UPDATE]