Big Oil Faces $700 Million Water Pollution Suit In New Hampshire
By Christopher Helman
ExxonMobil and Citgo, the U.S. refining arm of Venezuela‘s state oil company, are set to go to trial against the state of New Hampshire. The state is seeking $700 million from the oil companies to compensate for groundwater pollution caused by gasoline additive MTBE. A story from the AP today gets into some of the details of the legal saga, but conveniently omits the fact that the state will be hard pressed to pin the blame on the oil companies for this pollution. In fact, the federal government mandated in the 1990s that MTBE be blended into gasoline to increase octane and improve combustion. This despite the fact that studies had already shown how easily MTBE could pollute groundwater. The federal MTBE mandate was finally phased out in 2006, long after its dangers were known and after the state of California had unsuccessfully appealed to the EPA to end the mandate. There’s a ton more about the history of MTBE litigation here. Other oil companies have settled MTBE claims with states rather than wage expensive court battles. Exxon, however, is willing and able to go to the mat over MTBE, and hopes to convince a jury that actual MTBE pollution is not as bad as claimed.
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