Press Release

ANNAPOLIS, MD (September 20, 2000) - Concerned about the potential health and environmental risks associated with the use of MTBE ( methyl tertiary-butyl ether), a gasoline additive, Governor Parris N. Glendening today appointed nine members to a task force that will develop recommendations to minimize its impact. MTBE is a compound that is added to gasoline to help it burn more cleanly, and has been used for the past decade to reduce smog levels in cities like Baltimore and Washington with severe air pollution problems. MTBE has been detected in water supplies around the State, which has raised concerns about possible health effects.

"We are working aggressively to protect the public health and the environment to ensure that all Marylanders breathe clean air and drink clean water," said Governor Glendening. "This task force will help determine how to continue to make significant strides in our clean air efforts without sacrificing the progress we have made in protecting our water supplies."

The federally-mandated Clean Air Act of 1990 required gasoline sold in cities with high concentrations of air pollution to be treated with extra oxygen to help vehicles produce less carbon monoxide. The use of this reformulated gasoline is considered an effective way to combat smog, which has been linked to health conditions such as respiratory infection, lung inflammation, and asthma. Recently, however, federal investigators report finding detectable amounts of MTBE in the water supplies even in those areas in which the use of oxygenated gasoline was not required.

The Task Force on the environmental effects of MTBE is charged with examining potential risks associated with the presence of the compound in ground and surface water; assessing national and regional efforts to address the issue; recommending a plan to counteract any environmental and health risks involved; and exploring alternatives to MTBE in reducing air toxic emissions and pollutants that form ground level ozone.

Legislation passed during the 2000 session of the General Assembly called for the formation of a task force with 16 members, nine of whom are appointed by the Governor to represent specific groups. In addition to government representatives, members of the fuel industry, environmental action groups, the underground storage industry, and an expert on environmental health risk assessment will take part. The task force will produce a final report by December 1, 2001.