Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Lawsuits
Lawsuit shield for MTBE makers dropped from energy bill
One of the last remaining roadblocks to the passage of the energy bill has reportedly been removed: According to Senate Energy Committee Chair Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), a provision to shield manufacturers of groundwater-polluting fuel additive MTBE from lawsuits has been dropped from the bill. A similar measure torpedoed a federal energy bill in 2003, when House advocates of the liability shield — led by Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) — proved intransigent. (The fact that the shield is being jettisoned this year is seen by some as a sign that DeLay’s legendary power is waning.) The oil industry attempted to preserve the measure by offering up $2 billion late last week for a cleanup fund, but senators rejected that plan. With the issue threatening to sink the entire energy bill — which is widely expected to include a plethora of domestic dirty-power subsidies, plus some stabs at conservation and clean energy — President Bush reportedly called top congressional negotiators on Sunday and told them to get things moving.
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