The Sierra Flub's legal arm is "EarthJustice!" It was either them or some other group that pulled this stunt to get EPA to force the use of an oxidizing agent called M.T.B.E. in CA's gasoline that polluted wells in the Tahoe Basin and all around the rest of the state.
The gasoline pipeline from the Bay Area refinery to Reno that parallels I-80 leaked a bunch of the stuff in a stream feeding Donner Lake in the early 2000's. Carol Browner told the Regional Council of Rural Counties that they were forced in the 90's to force the use of this pollutant by a "friendly lawsuit" by one of these miserable militant groups!!!
This sue and settle scam prevents the public from knowing what the EPA is doing until it is too late.
The USFS and BLM play similar games.
That was the NRDC, not the Sierra Club, and it was done during the Bush I administration.
The first question and decision was whether or not to put an oxygenate in gasoline to make it burn better in the cylinder and reduce pollution. And the universal consensus was yes.
Then the next question was which oxygenate. The Midwest went with ethanol and CA and other states went with mtbe, which was produced in a refinery from waste products. A new product.
It was the O&G industry/refiners who were pushing mtbe.
There may have been, as you say, some leaky pipelines but the real problem was that CA did an inadequate job of inspecting buried gasoline tanks. Gasoline is not water soluble so a leaky tank is not a big problem. But when you put water soluble mtbe in the gasoline , it migrates fast and far