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Proposal seeks funds to clean MTBE spills


Del. Barry Glassman, chairman of the Harford County legislative delegation, will seek to introduce a resolution at Tuesday's special session of the General Assembly that would ask Congress for money to help the state pay for the cleanup of chemical contamination resulting from gasoline spills.

The resolution will also ask that Congress consider eliminating the use of methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, in gasoline as part of a new energy bill.

Glassman said he is "hopeful" of introducing the resolution because he is not certain he will be able to do so during a session called to address the issue of medical malpractice insurance in the state.

"If it gets to the floor," he said, "my hope is that it can be discussed between the debate on medical malpractice. I'm told by the legislative drafter that I have a 50-50 chance of getting the resolution to the floor."

If the resolution is approved, Glassman said it would urge the state's congressional delegation to support the request for money to clean up MTBE spills and to ban the product in gasoline.

Glassman said he was taking the action in response to a gasoline leak in the Upper Crossroads section of the county that he represents that has contaminated the drinking water in the wells of about 170 homes.

He said there has also been MTBE contamination in other parts of the state.

"MTBE will be a hot topic in the General Assembly" session beginning next month, said Glassman, a Republican. "There will be number of bills related to MTBE," a potentially cancer-causing chemical.

He said that Del. Richard A. Sossi, a Republican representing Queen Anne's County, has prefiled legislation that would ban the use of MTBE in gasoline sold in the state.

Glassman said he is working on a bill that would require the county to notify residents living within half a mile of a gasoline leak. Under this measure, he said, the station where the leak occurred would be responsible for the cost of the notification.

MTBE has been used in gasoline since 1979 to make it burn cleanly. Its use was increased significantly in the early 1990s to curb air pollution in smoggy areas of the country such as Baltimore.

Another bill would require the Maryland Department of the Environment to develop a plan to implement the phaseout of MTBE if Congress approves its removal from gasoline.

In September the County Council approved emergency legislation that imposed a moratorium on the construction of gasoline stations until restrictions are put into place to protect the county's water supply from MTBE and other chemicals.

The legislation halted the construction of stations for six months, or until the administration can submit a comprehensive water resource protection plan.

Councilman Robert G. Cassilly, one of the sponsors of the bill, said the moratorium on gas station construction could be extended if the water plan is not completed at the end of the six-month period.

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