Industry holds sway

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The us government has silently shelved a proposal to ban fuel additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (mtbe) that has been contaminating drinking water in many communities. Critics say the decision is a quid pro quo favouring the chemical industry lobby, which donated over us $1 million to the Republican Party. "This is a classic case of the Bush administration helping its campaign contributor friends at the expense of public health,' alleged Frank O'Donnell, executive director of the Clean Air Trust, a Washington-based environmental group.

In March 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency (epa) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to ban or regulate the use of mtbe. However, the epa withdrew agency rules, including the one on mtbe, in February 2001. The epa's stand on the issue is still unclear. The agency is not being able to make up its mind whether mtbe should be promoted for its clean air benefits or banned for the groundwater contamination it causes.