Portions of the document, which has not been made public, surfaced as lawmakers considered whether to shield MTBE manufacturers from product liability lawsuits in at least 36 states.
MTBE is blended with gasoline to help reduce air pollution. But the oxygenate is blamed for serious groundwater contamination and is banned in many states, including California and New York. Nationally, MTBE has been the subject of more than 150 lawsuits and remediation efforts are estimated to cost billions of dollars.
A provision being promoted by House Majority Leader Tom Delay and Republican Representative Joe Barton, both of Texas, would protect MTBE producers from product liability lawsuits.
Barton, the chair of the House-Senate conference committee negotiating the final energy bill, also is seeking a compromise, calling for the creation of an $8 billion dollar remediation effort funded by MTBE manufacturers, individual states and the federal government.
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who is leading the Senate negotiators, said he has yet to see an MTBE proposal that would not prompt a filibuster in the Senate -- something that could doom the energy legislation altogether.
As for the EPA document, officials say the draft paper reflects "incomplete information," and has yet to undergo internal or external peer review. They also say the document should not be construed as to represent any agency determination or policy.