Extending daylight-saving time by 4 weeks gets lawmakers' nod

Fate of idea depends on sweeping energy bill under negotiation

July 22, 2005|By Richard Simon | Richard Simon,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - House and Senate negotiators agreed yesterday to extend daylight-saving time by four weeks as part of a sweeping energy bill.

The provision is designed to save energy, but Rep. Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, one of the sponsors, said, "The beauty of daylight-saving time is that it just makes everyone feel sunnier."

Under the measure, clocks would be turned forward an hour on the second Sunday of March and turned back the first Sunday of November. Currently, daylight-saving time runs from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. The extension would become effective one year after the enactment of the energy bill.

The extension was approved as congressional negotiators worked on an overhaul of U.S. energy policy that is a priority of President Bush and seeks to address the public's concerns about high energy prices.

But before the extension can become law, negotiators must deal with other issues that doomed energy legislation two years ago - most notably a dispute over whether to give legal protections to producers of a gasoline additive, methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), that has been blamed for fouling water supplies across the country.

Meanwhile, 21 senators asked the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday for more information about an internal paper that reportedly concludes that MTBE might cause cancer.

Key elements of the document, which has not been made public, surfaced as lawmakers considered whether to shield the makers of MTBE from product liability lawsuits as a result of drinking water contamination in at least 36 states.

MTBE, which was put into gasoline to cut air pollution, has been banned in several states because of complaints that it adds a foul smell and turpentine-like taste to drinking water when it leaks into supplies.

But the draft EPA paper, described as a preliminary document that has not been peer-reviewed, raises broader health concerns from MTBE than widely assumed, according to opponents of the proposed liability shield.

House Republicans are exploring creating an industry-funded cleanup program. But Democrats complained yesterday that they feared the fund would fall far short of the estimated $25 billion or more needed for cleanup of contaminated sites nationwide, thus forcing taxpayers to cover the bulk of the costs. They also complained that water agencies had been shut out of negotiations to come up with a compromise.

"Any deal on MTBE which will leave our taxpayers and water providers paying the bill for cleanup is unacceptable and unjust to consumers," said Rep. Hilda L. Solis, a California Democrat.

On the daylight-saving time measure, the sponsors originally proposed a longer extension but shortened it in response to concerns about children waiting for morning buses or walking to school in the dark.

The U.S. airline industry also objected to the extension, saying it would disrupt airline schedules and cost the industry millions of dollars.

After the vote, James C. May, president and chief executive officer of the Air Transport Association, said, "Extending daylight-saving time will have a significant cost, causing severe schedule disruptions that affect not just the airlines, but their customers as well."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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