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Separating Fact from Fiction

December 8, 2003

Dear Editor,

Your December 6 article about the legal settlement between Unocal and the City was misleading, and it was unfair to the remaining defendant in the suit, Lyondell Chemical Company. ("Unocal Agrees to $5 Million Settlement," Dec. 6, 2003)

As a former communications consultant to the MTBE industry, I have spent a lot of time separating fact from fiction when it comes to MTBE, and I feel the need to do so again.

First, your statement that MTBE is "thought to be cancer producing" is way off base. Several years ago, MTBE detractors peddled a dubious Italian study (that has been widely panned) in an effort to create the impression that MTBE causes cancer in rats.

Since then, detailed scientific analysis performed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the U.S. National Toxicology Panel, the Proposition 65 Committee here in California, or the European Union, have all concluded that MTBE is not a cancer-causing agent. In fact, IARC classifies MTBE in the same category as fluorescent light and coffee.

Second, Lyondell Chemical Company has no business in this lawsuit to begin with. Lyondell is not responsible for the groundwater contamination at issue in this trial. The groundwater contamination was caused by specific gasoline releases at service stations either owned or controlled by the refiners participating in the Unocal settlement.

Lyondell does not make gasoline; Lyondell neither stores nor transports gasoline; Lyondell does not sell gasoline. Lyondell played no part whatsoever in the gasoline releases that caused this contamination

The City of Santa Monica filed its suit in order to identify and penalize the parties responsible for the groundwater contamination and to obtain compensation for environmental cleanup. With the Unocal settlement, that goal has been achieved.

Thanks for your time,

Ryan Knoll
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