What’s the EPA trying to hide?

One of the major sticking points in the energy bill is the ongoing controversy over the gasoline additive MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether), a powerful pollutant that has seeped into the nation’s water supply. The corporations which manufacture MTBE refuse to clean the water their product has dirtied — forcing states to sue them to take responsibility — and now conservatives in Congress are trying to insert liability lawsuit waivers that would protect the polluters.

But a bipartisan coalition of over twenty senators are trying to make the Environmental Protection Agency come clean about its own behind the scenes dirty work. It seems that “key elements” of an internal agency document conclude that MTBE is “a likely carcinogen.” The letter makes clear that “if ingestion of MTBE is determined to cause adverse human health effects, such as cancer, it is imperative that [lawmakers] have that information.”

It doesn’t look like the EPA is going to budge. A spokeswoman has already stated, “The scientific process should not be compromised for political expediency.” And now, though EPA officials do not dispute the characterization of MTBE as a likely carcinogen, they are suddenly backing off of the document: “EPA spokeswoman Eryn Witcher said the draft paper reflects ‘incomplete information’ developed early in the MTBE review process and has yet to undergo internal or external peer reviews.”

The EPA has already gotten caught fixing facts to serve the interests of the power plant industry. Are they trying to pay the oil industry the same favor?