Let’s start with the billionaires. In Louisiana, there’s a heated dispute brewing between oil and gas producers, and “the state's wealthiest corporate and individual landowners.” Writes the Times-Picayune,
At issue are the law and regulations that govern “legacy lawsuits,” the shorthand for civil actions filed by property owners alleging environmental damages and other claims against energy producers that have previously leased a plaintiff's land. …
A state Senate committee has just held a public hearing on this “billionaires and millionaires versus millionaires and billionaires” dispute. And when the oil companies are finished down in Baton Rouges, they’ll be heading up to Washington, DC for hearings on legislation that is supposed to be about ethanol, but thanks the Big Oil’s lobbying prowess, has now become legislation about them!
I’m talking about the new Domestic Fuels Protection Act of 2012, on which there are hearings before a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee this Thursday, April 19. Charles T. Drevna, President of the American Fuels and Petrochemical Manufacturers, will be testifying in favor of the bill, among others. (Witnesses opposing the legislation are K. Allen Brooks, Senior Assistant Attorney General and Chief, Environmental Protection Bureau for the State of New Hampshire, and Shannon Baker-Branstetter, Policy Counsel, Energy and Environment, Consumers Union Policy & Action from Consumer Reports.)
Buried in this complicated piece of legislation are provisions that provide broad liability exemptions to fuel producers, engine manufacturers and retailers of virtually all transportation fuels and fuel additives, like methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) - a gasoline additive notorious for leaking from underground storage tanks and contaminating groundwater. As we and many other organizations noted back in 2003 when similar immunity legislation was pending in Congress, immunity for MTBE contamination “poses unprecedented environmental and public health risks” and “a serious threat to the underground aquifers that supply half of the nation’s drinking water.…MTBE is a toxic and highly persistent chemical that has been added to gasoline since the late 1970s. U.S. Geological Survey experts estimate that there may be 250,000 leaking underground storage tank releases of MTBE.”
Finally, back to the gas pumps, we have a true consumer scandal on which NBC’s Jeff Rossen reported this morning on the Today Show. Turns out that when it's hot outside, you get far less value for the gas you purchase. (Hot gas loses energy.) Gas pumps with special meters, which calibrate your purchase based on temperature, are available and widely used in Canada.
No surprise that the petroleum industry here is fighting hard against any requirement for such meters here. However, says Rossen, thanks to a bunch of class action lawsuits filed by drivers in 21 states, the industry may be caving. Costco has now apparently agreeed to install temperature meters in warm weather states. BP Shell and Conaco have agreed to some kind of settlement too, but the details are yet unclear. Other gas station chains are expected to be in court next month.