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Exxon found liable for fouling New York City water with MTBE
Exxon Mobil Corp. was ordered to pay $104.7 million in damages after a jury found the company liable for poisoning New York City water wells with a gasoline additive meant to improve air quality. A federal jury in New York ruled in the city’s favor yesterday. New York accused Exxon Mobil, the biggest U.S. oil company, of contaminating five wells in and near the Jamaica area of the borough of Queens with methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE. Bloomberg_ 10/20/09

 

No punitive damages for Exxon Mobile in New York MTBE trial

Exxon Mobil Corp. won’t face punitive damages in a trial in which New York City accuses it of poisoning water wells with a gasoline additive meant to improve air quality, the trial judge said.  U.S. District Judge Shira Ann Scheindlin in Manhattan ruled in the company’s favor yesterday. A jury is deliberating on whether Exxon Mobil, the biggest U.S. oil company, is liable for injuring the city by poisoning five wells in and near the Jamaica area of the borough of Queens with methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE.  The Exxon Mobil case is part of larger litigation over MTBE. More than 70 lawsuits filed by water providers and state and local governments were consolidated before Scheindlin for pretrial information-gathering, according to an industry Web site.  BP Plc, Chevron Corp.,ConocoPhillips, Hess Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc were among 33 companies that settled with New York. Exxon Mobil, based in Irving, Texas, was the lone holdout.  Bloomberg_10/15/09

Exxon loses second phase of New York MTBE water-well trial

Exxon Mobil Corp. lost the second phase of a trial in which New York City accused the company of poisoning the city’s groundwater, with a jury ruling that a gasoline additive will remain in water wells for years. The case is part of larger litigation over methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE. More than 70 lawsuits filed by water providers and state and local governments were consolidated before U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin for pretrial information-gathering, according to an industry Web site. The trial will move to the third of four phases tomorrow. The jury panel will next decide whether Exxon Mobil is liable for poisoning the water and, if so, how much it should pay. Exxon Mobil, the biggest U.S. oil company, may face millions of dollars in damages. The trial concerns six wells, five of which New York says are poisoned with MTBE, in and near the Jamaica area of the borough of Queens. The city says it wants to build a water- treatment plant there called Station 6 that will clean 10 million gallons of water per day. Bloomberg_ 8/26/09

California Water Service Co. wins $49.7 million as part of national MTBE settlement

A San Jose-based water company will receive $49.7 million as part of a national deal to settle a lawsuit with oil companies over water contamination from the gasoline additive MTBE. California Water Service Co. is one of 156 plaintiffs in the case, which was filed in 2003 and 2004 against a dozen major refiners. The $422 million settlement agreement will be filed with the federal court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. A total of 27 drinking water wells owned by the company, known as Cal-Water, were contaminated by MTBE in northern and southern California starting more than a decade ago. MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, was added to gasoline in low levels starting in the late 1970s. In the early 1990s, however, Congress required states with high smog levels to add larger amounts of such oxygenates to gasoline. San Jose Mercury News_ 5/10/08

Oil companies settle MTBE groundwater suit

About a dozen oil companies agreed to pay $423 million and clean-up costs to settle litigation over decades of groundwater contamination from the gasoline additive and possible carcinogen MTBE, lawyers said on Wednesday. The settlement affects public water utilities and public agencies in 17 states, attorneys for water agencies said. Refiner Valero Energy Corp confirmed the agreement but added that the court must affirm it. "The one big holdout was ExxonMobil Corp," said Robert Gordon, of Weitz and Luxenberg, one of the three lead lawyers for the plaintiffs. Exxon did not immediately comment. MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, in 1979 replaced lead in gasoline to make car engines run smoother. Then Congress in 1990 required refiners to use oxygenates like MTBE to clean up tailpipe emissions. MTBE helps air quality, but it hurts water quality. The additive has leaked into water supplies in many states, sparking the lawsuits. Reuters_ 5/7/08

New MTBE spills found to threaten Long Island drinking water

A study of Long Island groundwater pollution caused by the fuel additive MTBE uncovered 32 petroleum spills that had not been previously detected, including one in Ronkonkoma that state environmental officials said had threatened public drinking water. The report, released yesterday by the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation, found that methyl tertiary butyl ether still threatens the aquifers that supply Long Island's drinking water -- despite New York's 2004 ban on MTBE. The study called for continued monitoring of MTBE in drinking water and recommended more tests to locate other undetected spills. The study was prompted by a 2002 DEC survey that found Long Island had more MTBE-contaminated spill sites -- 24 percent of the state's total -- than any region in New York. The federal Environmental Protection Agency classifies MTBE as a probable carcinogen, but little is known about its effects on human health. Thought to make fuel burn more cleanly, MTBE was added to gasoline in the 1990s in states such as New York that suffer from air pollution. Once spilled, it moves quickly through groundwater and is difficult and costly to remove. Newsday_ 2/23/08

Wider spread of MTBE in New Hampshire feared

A recent federal finding that drinking water at seven of 10 Rockingham County mobile home parks is contaminated with a gasoline additive called MTBE is surprising scientists and spurring ongoing legal efforts by the state to get oil companies to clean up the mess. The study, released this month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, also found that half the private wells tested in the most populous regions of the county were similarly contaminated, as are 40 percent of the community water supplies in those areas. Most of the tested water is considered safe to drink. But state officials and the scientists who conducted the study are concerned about the wells that were not tested and why so many mobile home parks are contaminated. The US Geological Survey is the principal author of the study. In September 2003, the state attorney general's office filed suit to force the region's fuel suppliers to clean up New Hampshire's MTBE-contaminated ground water. Since the 1970s, methyl tert-butyl ether has been added to the nation's gasoline supplies, first as an octane boost and later as a pollution control that cut down on auto emissions. As underground gasoline storage tanks got old and leaky, the additive started to make its way into ground-water supplies and eventually into wells. Accordingly, neighborhoods near gas stations, particularly along Route 125, have been hardest hit, according to the study. But the high incidence of MTBE at mobile home parks is puzzling. Boston Globe_ 1/17/08

Plainview New York MTBE water lawsuit dismissed

The Plainview Water District failed to convince a state judge that spills from nearby gas stations had imperiled its supply wells to the point that oil companies should pay for future cleanup and for costs the district has already incurred.  The lawsuit had drawn interest because it could have required ExxonMobil, Shell Oil and Cumberland Farms to pay for future pollution, even though contamination from leaking underground storage tanks had yet to reach the district's wells.  But Justice Kenneth A. Davis dismissed the case Wednesday in State Supreme Court, ruling that the district had failed to prove the spills, which contained the potentially carcinogenic fuel additive MTBE, posed a "real and imminent" threat to the wells.  Methyl tertiary butyl ether, (MTBE) a common fuel additive outlawed in New York in 2004, moves quickly through groundwater and is costly to remove.  Attorneys for the district said they would appeal the ruling and seek reimbursement for $2 million the district has spent to investigate and monitor the contamination. The original suit sought $2 billion in punitive and $500 million in compensatory damages.  Newsday_1/11/08

More than 4,000 pounds of MTBE pulled from contaminated Martinez, California site and end still not in sight

More than 4,000 pounds of a potentially harmful fuel additive have been removed from the groundwater at the Amorco Terminal in Martinez, but the cleanup is far from complete, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last week. The announcement came as the EPA, working with the California Regional Water Quality Control Board and Tesoro Corp., completed its first phase of the cleanup effort. The cleanup began last July after EPA discovered that the site was contaminated with Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether, a fuel additive that was widely used in gasoline in the 1990s. Steve Armann, manager of the EPA's Resource Conservation Recovery Act, Corrective Action office said that Conoco-Phillips owned the site during the time the material was released into the groundwater. Chair of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Mark Ross said that Tosco Corp. also operated the site during the time that MTBE was being added to gasoline in California. Tesoro has since taken over operation of the site and is working with the EPA to clean up the contamination, Armann said. It is still unknown how much material seeped out of the pipes or how far the plume extends underground, Armann said, but so far the pumps have removed 4,100 pounds of MTBE in just 150 days of operation, and the quantities don't seem to be tapering off. Bay City News Wire/CBS5.com_ 7/30/07

MTBE contamination found at Frederick, Maryland gas station

On Thursday, the county health department mailed letters to 25 property owners within a half-mile radius of the Gas Mart at 7729 Sunday’s Lane. The letters informed them that a monitoring well at the station tested positive for high levels of methyl tertiary-butyl ether and benzene. In June, officials from the Maryland Department of the Environment learned a recently-installed monitoring well tested positive for levels of methyl tertiary-butyl ether at 2,500 parts per billion -- 125 times the state's action level of 20 ppb. Benzene, a known carcinogen, was also found at 600 ppb, 120 times the state's action level of 5 ppb. No contamination was found in the station's water supply. State law requires MDE officials to notify local health departments of contamination in monitoring wells within 30 days. MDE is now studying groundwater flow to determine which properties could be affected by the contamination. Frederick News Post_ 7/6/07

August, 2006

MTBE level up in Maryland's Harford school's wells
A hazardous gasoline additive detected a year ago in two wells that supply drinking water to a Harford County elementary has reached alarming levels, prompting school officials to step up measures to safeguard pupils who returned this week.  Forest Hill Elementary, housed in a 7-year-old building a few miles north of Bel Air, began using bottled water last spring when the wells showed traces of methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE.  Test results from samples taken earlier this month and last week confirmed spikes in those levels to 66 parts per billion in one well and 101 parts per billion in the other.  The same wells tested at 13.6 parts per billion last spring and at 4.6 parts per billion a year ago.  "Levels have increased significantly since spring, and this has caught our attention," said Jay May, chief of administration for Harford schools. "This latest reading really surprised us, but we can be comfortable knowing that the children have been on bottled water since last spring. The only thing we are using well water for now is to flush toilets and wash floors."  Baltimore Sun_8/31/06

7-Eleven blamed for Aberdeen, Maryland MTBE water well contamination

7-Eleven Inc. is responsible for the leak of a gasoline additive that threatened Aberdeen's water supply, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment. The source of methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, discovered in Aberdeen's wells two years ago was the 7-Eleven store on South Philadelphia Road, just across the highway from the city's well field, state officials said. The state's investigation found a crushed vent line in the gas station's underground tanks. The city will seek compensation for its water and cleanup costs, said Mayor S. Fred Simmons, but the city has no clear estimate of the costs yet. Cynthia Baker, spokeswoman for 7-Eleven Inc., headquartered in Dallas, said the company is unaware of the recent communication between the city and MDE. Aberdeen's Department of Public Works supplies 1.7 million gallons a day to about 14,000 people from several sources, including the wells. MTBE, a gasoline additive that spreads readily through groundwater, has caused cancer in laboratory animals.   Baltimore Sun_ 7/16/06

April, 2006

Phase-out of groundwater-polluting MTBE adding to gas prices, AAA Mid-Atlantic says

Philadelphia-area gas prices continue to climb, pushed up by international tensions and the continued increase in crude-oil prices, according to the AAA Mid-Atlantic automotive-services organization. Prices are also being driven up by U.S. refineries, which appear to be having a difficult time managing a switch from fuel blended with MTBE to gasoline combined with ethanol, as evidenced by several weeks of declines in U.S. gasoline inventories, AAA Mid-Atlantic said. Blending with MTBE --methyl tertiary-butyl ether -- and ethanol reduces air pollution. The industry is moving away from MTBE because it has polluted groundwater. Philadelphia Business Journal_ 4/13/06

February, 2006

EPA revokes MTBE mandate that states argued increased groundwater contamination; Ethanol alternative also no longer required

States no longer will have to add corn-based ethanol or MTBE to gasoline to fight pollution — a requirement that costs as much as 8 cents a gallon — under rules announced Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency. The rules eliminate a mandate from the 1990 Clean Air Act that gasoline used in the smoggiest metropolitan areas contain 2% oxygen by weight. That law did not say which oxygenate must be used, but most refiners use either ethanol or methyl tertiary-butyl ether, known as MTBE. California, New York and Connecticut unsuccessfully had asked the EPA for a waiver of the requirement because the states had banned MTBE after finding it polluted the groundwater. The states were forced to use ethanol, which they contended had worsened pollution problems. AP/Los Angeles Times_ 2/16/06 (logon required)

December, 2005

Gas station owner in Hudson, Massachusetts called on to supply bottled water to more neighbors whose wells may be contaminated with MTBE
With more than 80 residents looking on, Board of Health members last night voted unanimously to require the owner of Continental Citgo to provide bottled water to all residents within 1,000 feet of his station who depend on wells for their drinking water. The gasoline additive MTBE -- methyl tertiary butyl ether -- was discovered last month in eight drinking water wells near George McGee's service station. Two of those wells tested at more than double the state health standard. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has not determined healthy levels for this chemical but has classified it as a "possible human carcinogen." McGee has been giving out the bottled water to the eight residents with affected wells. The board's vote now requires him to hand out water to 17 homes. That number could jump to 22, after the results come in on five more wells. Metro West Daily News_ 12/1/05

August, 2005

Valero eyes $50 million refinery conversion to address MTBE issue
Valero Energy Corp. could spend close to $50 million to convert refineries to produce fuel with the additive isooctane, should the company choose to pursue that strategy in the wake of announcing it will stop using the controversial fuel additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE).  The San Antonio-based oil and refining company made the decision to nix the use of MTBE due to the pending enactment of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 -- a new comprehensive energy law that does not impose limits on MTBE liability. Without the legal protection, many MTBE-based fuel producers are concerned about the threat of litigation from municipal governments, some of which have claimed that the additive has contaminated groundwater and soil throughout the United States. MSNBC_ 8/14/05

MTBE questions remain up in air

By next spring, the additive ethanol will no longer be a requirement for gasoline sold in Connecticut, but what will replace the oxygenate is still up in the air.  One of the provisions of the mammoth energy bill President Bush signed Monday does away with requirements that gasoline in areas with poor air quality — including Connecticut — contain oxygenates like ethanol and methyl tertiary-butyl ether, better known as MTBE.  "We are looking specifically at what it [the removal] means for Connecticut," said Tracy Babbidge, assistant director for air planning for the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, on Wednesday. But the DEP doesn't yet know what other options there are to create cleaner-burning gasoline, she said.  Connecticut Post_8/11/05

'Good bugs' cleaning up water tainted with MTBE
Microscopic critters gobble gunk from millions of gallons or else

To clean up a massive plume of MTBE in Los Angeles' drinking water supply, scientists have produced trillions of tiny "bugs" that feed on the toxic gasoline additive and leave the water pure enough to return to the aquifer.
The project is the first of its kind in Los Angeles, and officials rave that the superefficient microbes will restore millions of gallons of precious San Fernando Valley groundwater, which provides 10 percent of the city's drinking supply.  "This is exciting because we're saving the water, and water is precious in the region," said Yue Rong, a senior environmental scientist with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.  San Bernardino County Sun_ 8/7/05

Opinion

Cancer survivors suspect the MTBE

Pat Hannigan can't explain the cancers she and her husband survived.  But, like others in this Hudson River town where drinking water is contaminated with the gasoline additive MTBE, she's trying to connect the dots.  And she's not alone. Last week, following reports that MTBE is a "likely" carcinogen, Senate leaders demanded answers from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.  In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, 19 Democrats, one Republican and one independent sought details of an internal study that reportedly concludes MTBE causes cancer. Times Herald Record_8/1/05 log on required
  

Wall Street Journal understated MTBE leaks, health risks

A July 26 Wall Street Journal editorial understated the extent to which the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) has leaked into drinking water supplies and downplayed the health risks associated with ingesting MTBE. The Journal attacked "water companies and some cities" that have sued MTBE producers and fuel companies that use MTBE, claiming that only "trace amounts" of MTBE have leaked into water supplies and that "such small contaminations are harmless to public health." In fact, there have been numerous contaminations exceeding acceptable levels set by state governments and recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and MTBE is considered a potential carcinogen, though its low-level toxicity is undetermined. Media Matters for America_7/27/05


Conflicting forces broke apart Bass's water cleanup deal
Representative Charles Bass was set to become a hero when he broke with the rest of the New England delegation and tried to strike a compromise with House leaders to clean up local drinking waters contaminated by a gasoline additive that might cause cancer.  But when the House leaders didn't offer enough money for a cleanup fund -- and Bass's colleagues in New England rejected the proposal -- the soft-spoken Republican from Peterborough, N.H., who has served six terms, was suddenly left alone, out on a limb.  Bass's GOP colleagues defended him, saying he had fought to find a good-faith resolution to a problem that could take many years to resolve.  Boston Globe_7/27/05

MTBE cleanup fund not in energy bill's final version

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.  Republican Senate staffers said there will be no compromise on MTBE, and petroleum industry analysts confirmed there would be no bailout or cleanup fund.   The Washington Times _ 7/26/05  

Parents press for release of MTBE cancer inquiry

Parents of students at an Indiana school who drank MtBE-contaminated drinking water for two years are furious the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will not release a study that suggests that MtBE is a likely carcinogen in humans.  MTBE has already been proven as cancer-causing in laboratory animals.  In April 2002, the public discovered more than 400 students had been drinking MTBE-contaminated drinking water for at least two years.  News-Post-Tribune_7/26/05

Congress rejects protection for MTBE

House and Senate negotiators abandoned giving makers of the gasoline additive MTBE liability protection against environmental lawsuits Sunday July 24, removing the major roadblock to 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.  MTBE was introduced into widespread use in the mid-1990s to reduce air pollution. MTBE has been found in drinking water supplies in at least 36 states -- including California. Communities and water agencies say they are facing billions of dollars in cleanup costs.  Mercury News_7/25/05 log on required

House GOP proposes clean-up fund for water supplies

MTBE at issue
In a bid to remove the chief stumbling block to passage of long-debated energy legislation, House Republicans on Friday proposed creation of a multibillion-dollar fund to pay for cleaning up water supplies fouled by a gasoline additive.  The energy bill was thwarted two years ago largely because of a dispute over methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE, a fuel additive credited with helping reduce smog but blamed for contaminating water supplies across the country.  White House officials and lawmakers from both parties have been hopeful that rising gasoline prices and growing concern about U.S. dependence on foreign oil have created momentum for an energy bill to clear Congress this year. And the proposed cleanup fund represents the most aggressive effort yet to reach an agreement on the MTBE issue.  Los Angeles Times_7/22/05

Highest concentration of specific ground water contamination in northeast US
The presence of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), a component used to add oxygen to gasoline to meet Clean Air Act standards, has been detected as a contaminant in ground water supplies underlying urban areas, particularly in the northeastern United States. The study is published in the July-August issue of Ground Water.  Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey examined the occurrence of MTBE and gasoline hydrocarbons in ground water throughout the United States and found that nationwide, MTBE was detected as frequently as some other chemicals that have been used for longer periods of time. MTBE was detected more frequently in urban areas compared to other land use types, such as agricultural areas, putting shallow ground water supply in these areas at risk for contamination. Medical News Today_7/19/05

U.S. House keeps MTBE protection in energy bill

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday narrowly voted to keep intact language in a broad energy bill that protects Exxon Mobil Corp. and other makers of a water-fouling gasoline additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, from lawsuits. The chemical has leaked into water supplies in all 50 states and is a suspected carcinogen. The non-binding motion by Democrat Lois Capps of California would have instructed House negotiators to oppose legal protection for MTBE makers. The House voted 217-201 to reject the motion. But the close vote shows how divided Congress is over immunizing big oil companies from MTBE product liability lawsuits. Some oil executives have said they fear that MTBE liability could open the door to billions of dollars in huge liability lawsuits, akin to those faced by the tobacco and asbestos industries. House Republicans including Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Joe Barton of Texas have lobbied hard for the legal protection for oil refiners and other MTBE makers. The vote portends an uphill battle for Barton in a Senate-House bargaining session to reconcile both chambers' energy bills. Reuters_ 7/14/05

House Democrats attack MTBE, Barton calls for deal

House Democrats on Wednesday launched a new assault on a Republican plan to protect makers of a water-fouling gasoline additive from lawsuits while the top energy bill negotiator pushed for a deal that would require fuel makers to pay for cleanups. House and Senate negotiators are scheduled to meet for the first time on Thursday to resolve differences in their chambers' respective energy bills to promote domestic energy supplies. Republicans want to get a final bill approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the president next month. One of the key differences in the two bills is the House's plan to protect Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips and other major oil refiners that manufactured MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, from product liability lawsuits. The Senate opposes such protection. U.S. oil refiners began adding MTBE to gasoline in 1979 as an anti-knock agent that replaced lead. But the chemical has seeped into municipal water supplies across the nation through leaky underground tanks, rendering the water undrinkable.Rep. Joe Barton of Texas said he wanted to keep language in the House-passed bill that would protect MTBE makers from liability lawsuits filed after Sept. 5, 2003. Barton has been tapped by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, to make a deal on MTBE that can pass the Senate. As compensation, Barton said he will support an industry-funded pool of money that states could use to clean up MTBE contamination. Reuters_ 7/13/05

June, 2005

AWWA and Assn. of Metropolitan Water Agencies studies pin MTBE clean up costs between $25 billion and $85 billion

The studies, commissioned by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and AMWA, examined the cost to remove methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) contamination from public drinking water systems across the United States. These studies update estimates from 2001 that then cited MTBE cleanup costs at approximately $29 billion. The studies acknowledge that thousands of water systems are already contaminated by MTBE at levels at which consumers can taste or smell the chemical in their water. MTBE, which was added to gasoline as an octane enhancer and to help protect air quality, has a strong odor and is listed by EPA as a possible carcinogen. The AWWA and AMWA reports focus exclusively on the cost to treat contaminated public water supply wells. Other studies have focused on cleaning up leaking underground storage tank (LUST) sites. Press Release_ 6/21/05

Bush administration may help end MTBE fight in energy bill

For Congress to get a final energy bill to the White House this summer, the Bush administration said on Thursday it was prepared to broker a compromise between the Senate and House over whether to protect big oil companies from certain lawsuits. The Senate strongly opposes language in energy legislation passed by the House in April that would shield from certain lawsuits oil companies that make the water-polluting gasoline additive MTBE. The issue threatens to scuttle a final energy package when congressional negotiators meet in July at a special conference committee to work out differences in each chamber's bills. U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said the White House prefers that lawmakers try to end the MTBE dispute, but the administration will step in if necessary. Reuters_ 6/16/05

Bush urges energy-bill compromise on fuel additive MTBE

President Bush, eager for Congress to pass an energy bill to shore up his second-term record, urged lawmakers to compromise on sticking points such as a lawsuit shield for makers of water-polluting fuel additive MTBE. "Now is the time to stop the debate and the partisan bickering and pass an energy bill. I look forward to working with members of the Congress to come up with reasonable compromises on outstanding issues such as MTBE," Bush said in a speech. A win on the energy bill might help the White House counter criticism that Bush, whose approval ratings are at the lowest level of his presidency, is losing political clout. U.S. refiners began adding MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, to gasoline in 1979 as an anti-knock agent that replaced lead, but its use soared in 1995 to comply with a federal law to make cleaner burning fuel. However, MTBE has seeped in to water supplies in all 50 states through leaky storage tanks, rendering the water undrinkable. Oil companies claim they should not be sued for making a defective product because the Environmental Protection Agency required that cleaner-burning additives be mixed into gasoline to reduce air pollution, and MTBE was the popular choice. Reuters_ 6/15/05

US Senate poised to debate energy bill - the issue, again, is MTBE

The U.S. Senate will take up a wide-ranging energy bill to boost domestic oil and natural gas supplies next week, but some Wall Street analysts give less than even odds that the House and Senate will agree upon a final energy package to send the bill to President George W. Bush's desk this summer. That is mostly because the two chambers have yet to find a solution to assigning liability for water pollution caused by MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, a fuel additive that is a pollutant and possible carcinogen. Unlike the energy bill passed by the House of Representatives in April, the Senate version of the bill does not protect MTBE makers from defective product liability lawsuits. Inclusion of such provisions cratered Senate Republicans' attempt to pass energy legislation last year. Reuters_ 6/9/05

May, 2005

Chair of Senate Budget Committee says he has the votes to block protection for MTBE producers

New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg said, if necessary, he would not hesitate to use a filibuster to kill the MTBE provision that was part of the energy bill passed by the House last month. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas is a key backer of the MTBE lawsuit shield. He says the government essentially mandated MTBE use when it passed a 1990 law requiring gasoline to contain 2 percent oxygen, so Congress now should protect MTBE manufacturers against product liability lawsuits. MTBE is added to gasoline to reduce air pollution. But it has been found to contaminate drinking water supplies, and about half the states face known or potential cleanup problems. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 5/6/05

April, 2005

House retains MTBE provision that would soak consumers

American Water Works Association executive director Jack W. Hoffbuhr described the House action on the Energy Bill as "very disappointing" and said in a statement "as the Energy Bill dialogue shifts to the Senate, the water community will continue to fight against this egregious provision. During the last Congress, the Energy Bill stalled in the U.S. Senate largely because many members of Congress voted with their consciences instead of with powerful special interests. American citizens deserve a common-sense energy policy that’s not encumbered by the cynical politics reflected in the MTBE safe harbor provision." Press Release_ 4/21/05

House OKs energy bill after fight over MTBE

The U.S. House of Representatives solidly approved the $8 billion energy bill, 249-183. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said President Bush "is very pleased" with the vote. The Senate, which plans to finish writing its version next month, has indicated the MTBE protection will not be in its version of an energy bill. One of the most bitter debates centered on the House bill's language protecting oil companies that manufactured the MTBE fuel additive from some lawsuits. MTBE is a suspected carcinogen that has polluted drinking water nationwide. Clean-up costs are estimated at $29 billion by municipal water groups, a figure disputed by the industry. Reuters_ 4/21/05

Chair of House Energy and Commerce Committee optimistic that compromise is possible on MTBE in federal energy bill

Senate and House negotiations are under way to reach a compromise in a wide-ranging energy bill on how to protect oil companies from lawsuits for making the gasoline additive that pollutes water supplies, Republican Rep. Joe Barton said. The provision -- which is being pushed by House Majority Leader Tom Delay and opposed by many in the Senate -- killed last year's attempt by Congress to produce an energy bill. The special shield against product liability lawsuits is worth billions of dollars to makers of MTBE such as ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Lyondell Chemical Co. The White House will likely need to step in to broker an agreement on MTBE between House and Senate lawmakers, said Alex Flint, top energy advisor for Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici. Reuters_ 4/14/05

House panel OKs slimmed-down energy bill with MTBE protections for manufacturers

Democrats failed in trying to strip away from the bill two of its most controversial measures: drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and giving makers of the gasoline additive MTBE a shield from lawsuits stemming from MTBE contamination of drinking water. It probably will move to a vote by the full House next week. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 4/13/05

House panel revives energy bill; No change in MTBE protections for manufacturers

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, chairman of the House Energy Committee, said he wants to finish panel talks by next week on the bill. The legislation is expected to win easy passage in the full House. The Senate has not yet begun writing its version. The House bill includes a potential deal-breaker, which would shield U.S. refiners and makers of the additive MTBE, methyl tertiary butyl ether, from liability lawsuits for contaminating water supplies. Reuters_ 4/5/05

Maryland House OKs two bills requiring notification of high levels of MTBE in drinking water

A third bill, which would require the state Department of the Environment to submit a report on the viability of alternatives to the use of methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, in gasoline to the General Assembly by December of next year, also passed the House without opposition. The bills were drawn up by legislators from Harford County after traces of the gasoline additive were found in nearly county 180 wells. Angry residents of the area demanded action to correct what they saw as a threat to their health as well as to the value of their homes. The health effects of MTBE on humans are unknown at the low level typically found in well water, but it has caused cancer in laboratory animals in high doses. Baltimore Sun_ 4/3/05

February, 2005

Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies urges Congressional hearing on MTBE

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) sent a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton requesting a hearing on the MTBE liability waiver sought by the petroleum industry in the energy bill. AMWA would like the opportunity to correct misinformation being disseminated on this issue, said a letter from the association. It said "the petroleum industry has propagated an enormous amount of misleading information regarding the liability waiver and the motivations of communities and their water systems in fighting the waiver." Press Release_ 2/16/05

U.S. oil industry asks Congress for MTBE lawsuit protection

Congress should shield oil companies that make the fuel additive MTBE from water pollution lawsuits because the product was approved by the government to produce cleaner gasoline, Red Cavaney, the head of the American Petroleum Institute said in testimony to a House subcommittee on U.S. energy policy. The controversial protection from product liability lawsuits is a key reason why a broad energy bill died last year in the U.S. Senate. House Republican leaders such as Tom Delay of Texas insist that any comprehensive energy bill must include the legal protection for oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp., Valero Energy Corp. and Lyondell Chemical Co. Hundreds of communities across the United States are suing because MTBE or methyl tertiary butyl ether, has leaked from underground storage tanks and polluted drinking water supplies. The clean-up of all MTBE leaks has been estimated to cost as much as $29 billion. Cavaney said lawsuits brought by personal injury lawyers over MTBE discourages investment and threatens jobs, and Congress needs to fix the problem. Reuters_ 2/16/05

Maryland Assembly to consider state ban on MTBE

Three bills have been introduced in Annapolis to phase out methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) in gasoline within five years. Those and other MTBE-related measures were drafted by legislators from Harford County, where detection of the gas additive in 178 Fallston-area wells last summer sparked an uproar. Added to gasoline in the early 1990s to help fight unhealthful summer smog, MTBE has leaked from underground tanks and is tough to remove once it seeps into groundwater. State officials say the additive has polluted about 600 private wells, most in the Baltimore area. If Maryland lawmakers act to bar MTBE, the state would join 17 others, including California and New York, that have taken similar action to safeguard drinking water. Congress ordered in 1990 that in smoggy regions such as Baltimore, "oxygenates" be added to gasoline to make it burn more cleanly. But in prescribing ingredients for cleaner-burning gas, federal lawmakers guaranteed lucrative markets for makers of MTBE and ethanol, the two chemicals then deemed acceptable. If Maryland bars MTBE, federal officials are expected to require gasoline sold in the state to contain another clean-burning additive, probably ethanol. Baltimore Sun_ 2/14/05 (logon required)

Bush to push for federal energy bill, won't enter MTBE fray

President Bush will make a pitch for the passage of a broad energy bill with incentives to boost domestic production when he delivers his State of the Union address, a White House aide said. But the White House does not plan to wade into the contentious issue of whether oil companies that manufactured the fuel additive MTBE should be protected from liability lawsuits for water supplies contaminated by the chemical, said spokesman Trent Duffy. The issue threatens to bog down the bill in Congress. MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, is a suspected carcinogen and has been found in the drinking water supplies of many U.S. cities. Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican who heads the Senate energy panel, said the MTBE protection will not be in the energy bill he is writing because it cannot pass the Senate. MTBE was widely used in the 1990s to meet federal rules for cleaner-burning gasoline. MTBE producers include Lyondell Chemical Co, Valero Energy Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. Reuters_ 2/2/05

November, 2004

New Hampshire Supreme Court to hear appeals in Pelham MtBE contamination suit

Selectman Jean-Guy Bergeron and his wife, Emma, whose junkyard was found liable for polluting three neighbors’ wells with the gasoline additive MtBE appealed decisions made at Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua. So, too, did the three families that brought the suit against the Bergerons. No hearings have yet been scheduled by the court. Last May, the families won a combined $965,863 judgment against the Bergerons and their business, Jean-Guy’s Used Cars & Parts, Inc. Salem Observer_ 11/24/04

MTBE found in at least 600 private Maryland wells

But a rush to prohibit the toxic gasoline additive could bring on environmental problems and gas price hikes, oil industry and environmental regulators warned. The additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether, has been escaping from underground fuel tanks. It's used to help gas burn more cleanly but it has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats at high doses. Health effects of low levels in humans are unknown. AP/Hagerstown Herald-Mail_ 11/19/04

Bush win heartens Congress energy bill backers; MTBE still the issue

Bush's controversial energy plan, prepared in 2001 by a panel led by Vice President Dick Cheney, has been hung up in the U.S. Senate due to a dispute over MTBE, a gasoline additive that polluted groundwater supplies in 1,500 U.S. cities. Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, House Energy Committee chairman, plans new action during Congress' "lame duck" session scheduled to begin Nov. 15, his spokesman said. Senate Energy Committee chairman Pete Domenici has no plans to act on the bill this year barring a solution to a dispute over methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), his spokeswoman said. Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska has tried to broker a solution that would create a trust fund to compensate parties that have sued MTBE makers for about $29 billion in damages. Texas, the home state of Barton and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, is also the headquarters of several fuel refiners that make the MTBE additive, including Lyondell Chemical Co., Valero Energy Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. Reuters_ 11/3/04

October, 2004

A hardball 108th Congress
In the absence of budget constraints, proposed legislation on issues ranging from highways to national energy policy were stuffed with giveaways to special interests, and eventually sank of their own weight. While a $31 billion energy bill was trimmed back in 2004, it still derailed over a demand of the GOP House leadership to protect makers of the gasoline additive MTBE from liability. Senate Democrats and GOP moderates blocked the bill over objections to the waiver. Christian Science Monitor_ 10/14/04

August, 2004

Maryland sets regulations to protect drinking water from MTBE fuel leaks

The rules drafted by the Maryland Department of the Environment will require double-walled pipes and sensors to be installed on all underground motor fuel storage systems in areas of the state where wells are the primary source for household drinking water. The state is responding to the disclosure that 169 wells in the Fallston area of Harford County were contaminated with methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, an additive that reduces air pollution by making gasoline burn cleaner. MTBE has been identified as a potential cause of cancer. AP/Hagerstown Herald-Mail_ 8/12/04

 

July, 2004

MTBE leaks into water supplies setting off new wave of lawsuits
Just as it has seeped into private wells and water supplies across the country, the gasoline additive MTBE is beginning to saturate the court system. Hundreds of lawsuits alleging contamination from methyl tertiary butyl ether - the toxic substance recently detected in the drinking water of some private wells in Maryland's Harford County - have erupted nationwide in recent years. Baltimore Sun_ 7/1/04 (logon required)

 

June, 2004

Many of 200 Harford County, Maryland water wells to be retested for MTBE contamination

Residents questioned earlier test results paid for by Exxon Mobil Corp. Methyl- tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, a gasoline additive, has been detected in drinking water from 77 wells in the area of a gas station owned by Exxon Mobil. Most of the well tests yielded traces of the chemical, though eight registered levels above the state's action level. Baltimore Sun_ 6/26/04

68 neighborhood water wells affected by MTBE, some highly tainted, in Harford County, Maryland
Tests reveal extremely high levels of a potentially cancer-causing chemical in the ground water -- up to 26,000 parts per billion -- at an Exxon gas station in the Harford County community of Upper Crossroads, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment, which is calling the incident one of the largest well contamination problems ever recorded in the state. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends 20 parts per billion as safe for the presence of the gasoline additive.
State, county and Exxon officials have known about the MTBE problem since at least 1998. Baltimore Sun_ 6/22/04

US House re-passes sweeping energy legislation with legal protections for MTBE producers
The Republican-controlled US House Tuesday re-passed sweeping energy legislation in what industry lobbyists called a largely symbolic move. Although also under Republican control, the US Senate is not expected to approve much of the energy-related legislation now going through the House. Oil & Gas Journal_ 6/17/04

House Republicans try to revive Bush energy plan, including legal protections for producers of MTBE
The energy plan stalled in the Senate last fall because of the MTBE protections. The gasoline additive contaminates groundwater. The additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, is made primarily in House Republican leader Tom DeLay's home state of Texas, and DeLay has refused to drop the provision, which a number of oil companies also support.  Los Angeles Times_ 6/16/04 (logon required)

South Tahoe Public Utility District in California using seismic survey to track trail of MTBE contaminated water
The survey information may allow the districrt to better contain and treat water contaminated by methyl tertiary butyl ether. It is a gasoline additive that has shut down 13 public water wells since it was discovered it had leaked underground at South Shore in 1997. Tahoe Daily Tribune_ 6/9/04

 

May, 2004

Hyde Park, New York to begin construction of $4.3 million water district to fix MTBE contamination

The new district will provide water to about 270 properties whose wells were found in 2000 to be contaminated with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). Kingston, NY Daily Freeman_ 5/31/04

April, 2004

Taunton, Massachusetts firm to provide water to homes with MTBE-contaminated wells
Adesa Impact has agreed to pay for extending a city water line to 26 East Taunton homes where private wells are contaminated with the gasoline additive linked to Adesa's nearby property. However, Adesa is also asking residents to waive their right to sue the company over any diminished value of their property. The Enterprise/South of Boston.com_ 4/21/04

Maine bans gasoline additive MTBE
In 2007, the state will follow New York and Connecticut in banning methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), an additive that helps reduce air pollution but is also contaminating groundwater all over New England. Boston Globe 4/4/04

March, 2004

Leaking fuel tanks foul Arizona water and fuel additive MTBE found in water of 54 communities 
Twenty years after the nation passed laws to clean up fuel tank water pollution and to prevent new problems, hundreds of leaks from underground storage tanks are still fouling soil and groundwater with gasoline, diesel or waste oil. The situation threatens this arid state's future drinking water supplies, discourages new businesses from opening on tainted sites and adds to the price of gas at the pump. Finding and cleaning it all up will cost an estimated $262.5 million, according to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. Arizona Daily Star 3/28/04

November, 2003

Requiem for an Energy Bill: It died from its excesses.  New York Times 11/26/03 

Republicans to try again for federal energy bill in 2004. Fate of MTBE protections undecided.  Reuters 11/25/03

Federal energy bill dead for this year, says GOP spokesperson. Key issue was legal immunity for producers of MTBE.  Reuters 11/24/03

Senate gives up on federal energy bill for this year. AP/San Francisco Chronicle 11/24/03

White House putting pressure on House GOP leaders to drop MTBE from federal energy bill.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle 11/24/03

GOP scrambles to find two votes for the federal energy bill. Could be delayed until next year.  Reuters 11/24/03

Oil companies will pay Santa Monica, California hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up MTBE pollution.  Reuters 11/21/03

GOP to try again today for Senate approval of federal energy bill. If it doesn't pass by tomorrow, it's probably on hold until next year.  Reuters 11/23/03

GOP tries to rework, revive energy bill after it hits Senate roadblock. New offers to opponents.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle 11/21/03

Santa Monica settles with oil companies on MTBE. City reportedly gets several hundred million dollars.  Reuters/Forbes 11/21/03

Federal energy bill blocked in the Senate, but not dead.  Reuters 11/21/03  

MTBE waiver blamed for U.S. energy bill setback. GOP seeks two more votes.  Reuters/Forbes 11/21/03

Portions of federal energy bill could get tied to national appropriations bill or other measure that Congress must pass before Thanksgiving. GOP likely to try one more time for Senate passage of full bill.  Reuters/Forbes 11/21/03

AWWA chief hails energy bill filibuster as "a victory for everyone who values clean drinking water and common sense." Press Release  11/21/03

Santa Monica, California expects to announce a settlement today in its MTBE drinking water pollution suit. Settlement funds from a dozen oil companies will clean up the water supply.  Business Wire 11/20/03

Coalition of Senate Democrats and Republicans blocks federal energy bill. GOP will try again.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle 11/21/03

Senate narrowly fails to end debate on federal energy bill. Delay could push final action into next year.  Reuters 11/21/03

Senate debate on federal energy bill splits along regional lines. One or two votes may be decisive, senator says.  Reuters 11/20/03

Santa Monica, California expects to announce a settlement today in its MTBE drinking water pollution suit. Settlement funds from a dozen oil companies will clean up the water supply.  Business Wire 11/20/03

Largest U.S. American Indian organization urges Senate to kill federal energy bill.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle 11/20/03

Senate Democratic Leader Daschle says he'll vote for energy bill.  AP/Aberdeen News 11/19/03

Senate begins federal energy bill debate. Neither side asks for a preliminary vote. Lawmakers to work through the weekend and be home for Thanksgiving.  Reuters 11/19/03

Senate debates $23 billion energy bill. Shopping for votes led to huge price tag, says Senator.  AP/Washington Post 11/19/03

Senate begins debate on federal energy bill. Supporters say MTBE critics lack clout to kill plan. Reuters 11/19/03

Federal energy bill would help Texas MTBE producers. Classic face-off between Texas and New York over the gasoline additive.  AP/Star-Telegram 11/19/03

Consensus on federal energy bill arose one project at a time.  N.Y. Times 11/19/03

ANALYSIS-U.S. MTBE bans could disrupt European gasoline flows to the U.S. during peak demand periods next year.  Reuters/Forbes 11/19/03

N.Y. Senator says federal energy bill means bad news and big bills for New York. Press Release 11/19/03

California Senator Boxer says 30 million in state impacted by MTBE. Press Release 11/19/03

Senate may act on federal energy bill today. Supporters say MTBE opponents may slow action but can't kill it.  Reuters/Forbes 11/19/03

House passes federal energy bill. Senate fate unclear. MTBE is a "deal breaker," says one Senate Democrat.  Reuters 11/18/03

AWWA leader says MTBE found in 55% of metropolitan systems tested. Calls federal energy bill legal protections for MTBE producers "brazen political giveaway."  U.S. Newswire 11/18/03

U.S. House OKs broad federal energy bill. Senate vote is next.  Reuters/Forbes 11/18/03

New Hampshire delegation opposes MtBE clause in energy bill.  AP/Portsmouth Herald 11/18/03

Federal energy bill's unofficial cost climbs to at least $23.4 billion, Democrats say. Most of the benefits aimed at the oil and natural gas industry, including MTBE producers.  Reuters 11/17/03

Assn. of California Water Agencies urges Congress to oppose federal energy bill. Protests court suit immunity for producers of MTBE.  Business Wire 11/17/03

House-Senate conference committee meets today on federal energy bill. Measure would limit liability of MTBE producers.  Los Angeles Times 11/16/03

Federal energy bill shields makers of MTBE from more than a dozen lawsuits filed since September over drinking water contamination.  AP/Newsday 11/15/03

GOP leaders make public federal energy bill. Vote expected next week. MTBE lawsuit protections still an issue.  Reuters 11/14/03

Coalition of mayors, city council members, county officials, water system executives and public works directors urges Congress to strip MTBE legal protections from federal energy bill. Press Release 11/14/03

GOP makes public federal energy bill. It keeps lawsuit protections for producers of MTBE. Printed version available tomorrow. Reuters 11/14/03

MTBE: GOP leaders in House and Senate say they've reached agreement on a federal energy bill. No printed version until at least tomorrow but some details to be released later today.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle 11/14/03

Release of federal energy bill delayed again. GOP leaders say last minute issues being resolved. Final MTBE details not known.  Reuters 11/10/03

Maine lawmakers oppose legal protection for MTBE producers. Federal energy bill draft shields water pollutant from lawsuits.  Portland Press Herald 11/10/03

Written in private, federal energy bill to become public today.  Reuters 11/9/03

Details of federal energy bill to be made public Monday.  Reuters 11/7/03  

Democrats threaten to block federal energy bill. Oppose legal protections for MTBE producers, among other issues.  Reuters 11/6/03

Environmentalists call emerging energy bill a disaster. MTBE manufacturers would be protected from water pollution lawsuits.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle 11/5/03

White House offers plan to salvage energy bill. Ethanol favored over MTBE.  Reuters 11/4/03

October, 2003

Florida utility sues oil companies for MTBE water pollution.  AP/Herald Tribune 10/31/03

President Bush urges Senate and House Republicans to quit fighting over energy bill.  Reuters 10/30/03

Senate Finance Committee chair urges Bush to intervene on US energy bill. Work on the bill has been mired for more than a week in Republican disputes.  Reuters/Forbes 10/22/03

Stubborn standoff between House and Senate Republicans delays vote on energy bill at least until next week. Bill protects MTBE producers against law suits for water pollution.  Reuters 10/20/03

Vote on federal energy bill, including MTBE liability, not likely this week. Still no GOP consensus on key issues.  Reuters 10/20/03

GOP Congressmen tentatively agree to protect producers of the gasoline additive MTBE from environmental lawsuits.   No firm agreement yet on date the lawsuit ban takes effect.  AP/Yahoo 10/19/03

House vote on federal energy bill scheduled for Tuesday. No word on MTBE status.  Reuters 10/17/03

U.S. mayors, elected leaders, water utilities challenge latest House version on MTBE. Retroactive plan makes bill worse, coalition says.

House-Senate road tax tiff snarls U.S. energy bill. Measure also affects MTBE water clean up.  Reuters/Forbes 10/17/03

Republican Congressional leaders set today as deadline for clearing up energy bill issues. Legal protection for MTBE producers in water contamination suits still in dispute. Democrats not included in talks.  Reuters/Forbes 10/16/03

The national energy bill could be scuttled by the U.S. Senate if MTBE issues not resolved. Forty two Senators say they oppose exempting the fuel additive from liability for polluted water.  Scripps Howard News Service 10/11/03

N.Y. Senator urges voters to press their congressmen on MTBE. Don't shield oil giants from liability, he argues.  Poughkeepsie Journal 10/11/03

US energy bill could be delayed until January. Measure includes MTBE rules.  Reuters/Forbes 10/9/03

New Hampshire suing 22 oil companies over gasoline additive MTBE, linked to water pollution. "The Houdini of pollutants" says state's AG.  AP/San Diego Union

Federal energy bill may reduce MTBE state-by-state rather than nationwide.  High Plains Journal 10/9/03

Congress debates MTBE as part of federal energy bill. Gas additive could be exempt from law suits.  AP/Guardian

Facts about gasoline additive MTBE.  AP/Guardian

Timeline: The evolution of MtBE use.  AP/Concord Monitor

New Hampshire is first state to file MTBE lawsuit. California's Sacramento County and 10 water utilities took similar action last week.  Sacramento Business Journal

New Hampshire all alone on state level in MTBE efforts.  Concord Monitor

New Hampshire sues 22 refiners for use of MTBE found in state's water supply.  Bloomberg/Houston Chronicle

Sacramento County, California district attorney and 10 local water utilities are suing the nation's major gasoline producers. Claim gas producers should pay to clean up MTBE contaminated groundwater.  Contra Costa Times

Water-polluting MBTE holding up final agreement on Congressional energy bill.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle

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