WASHINGTON - The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) today set the record straight about inaccurate statements made by
Rep. Chris Chocola (R-IN) in a Friday South Bend Tribune story regarding the House Energy bill (H.R. 6), which he voted in favor of last week. According to the Tribune, Rep. Chocola said that "[the House Energy bill] doesn’t relieve liability for anyone who has polluted the environment." The truth is that the bill does in fact include a provision to protect producers and refiners of the dangerous chemical, MTBE from pollution liability by not listing it as a defective product, even though MTBE producers knew that their product was defective as early as 1980(<http://www.ewg.org/reports/withknowledge/index.php>)
And this provision nullifies lawsuits against MTBE manufacturers and oil companies retroactive to September 5, 2003, including a lawsuit filed by two towns in Rep. Chocola’s district for MTBE contamination.
Rep. Chocola in his statement to the Tribune claims that he is stating a "fact", but the text of the Energy bill speaks the truth:
H.R. 6 - Energy Policy Act of 2005
SEC. 1502. FUELS SAFE HARBOR.
(a) In General- Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal or State law, no renewable fuel, as defined by section 211(o)(1) of the Clean Air Act, or methyl tertiary butyl ether (hereafter in this section referred to as `MTBE')&nor any motor vehicle fuel containing such renewable fuel or MTBE, shall be deemed a defective product by virtue of the fact that it is, or contains, such a renewable fuel or MTBE&(b) Effective Date- This section shall be effective as of September 5, 2003, and shall apply with respect to all claims filed on or after that date.
Additionally, Rep. Chocola claims to see no connection between himself, the MTBE provision and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. According to the Tribune, he said, "I don’t know what Tom DeLay has to do with this issue."
In reality, Tom DeLay has everything to do with this issue given that one of the largest producers of MTBE, Lyondell Chemical, is based in his district, and Mr. DeLay has fought hard to keep this provision in the Energy bill year after year. In fact, a Republican congressional staff member recently referred to the Energy bill as, "[the] MTBE-Tom DeLay bill" (Houston Chronicle, 4/13/05). Moreover, Rep. Chocola was named to LCV’s "Tom’s Tainted Team" last week because he has continually sided with Mr. DeLay and MTBE Special Interests over the interests of his constituents.
Rep. Chocola earned a place on "Tom’s Tainted Team" because he has:
· Now voted three times for the House Energy bill that includes the MTBE polluter bailout provision;
· Took campaign cash from the oil and gas industry which has lobbied hard for passage of the Energy bill (including from Valero Energy, a big manufacturer of MTBE which is based in Texas);
· Received at least $10,000 in contributions from Mr. DeLay’s PAC, Americans for a Republican Majority (partially funded by MTBE interests);
· MTBE contamination in his district and a pending lawsuit filed by several Indiana towns, including South Bend and Mishawaka (both in his district) against oil, gas and MTBE producers (including BP, which Rep. Chocola owns stock in) that would be nullified if the MTBE provision were enacted into law;
· And turned a blind eye to Rep. DeLay’s ethics issues by voting earlier this year to change House ethics rules to help shield him from investigations while also contributing $2,500 to Mr. DeLay’s legal defense fund.
Attached below is the Tribune story and a fact sheet on Rep. Chocola’s record with respect to supporting MTBE polluters and Mr. DeLay over the interests of his constitutents.
We are available for comments or to answer questions about this story. Please contact Mark Sokolove at 202-785-8683.
To view the full "Tom’s Tainted Team" report, visit www.lcv.org
Read LCV's Factsheet on Rep. Chocola: chocola_mtbe_042505