ExxonMobil liable for groundwater contamination
The Washington Post reported on 8th April 2013 that ExxonMobil had been found liable for groundwater contamination and fined $236 million.
It stated that the company had been found liable in a long-running lawsuit over groundwater contamination caused by the gasoline additive MTBE and the jury had ordered the oil company to pay $236 million to New Hampshire, USA, to clean it up.
The panel awarded New Hampshire state all of the $236 million it was seeking to monitor and remediate groundwater contaminated by MTBE. The chemical had been added to gasoline to reduce smog but was found to travel farther and faster in groundwater than gasoline without the additive.
Jurors found that ExxonMobil was negligent in adding MTBE to its gasoline and that it was a defective product. They also found ExxonMobil liable for failing to warn distributors and consumers about its contaminating characteristics.
The jury determined that the hazards of using MTBE gasoline were not obvious to state officials, who opted into the reformulated gasoline program in 1991 to help reduce smog in the state's four southernmost counties.
The jurors rejected ExxonMobil's defence that more than 300 junkyard and gas station owners not named in the lawsuit were responsible for much of the contamination. They also absolved the state of responsibility for the contamination.
The jury found damages to the amount of $816 million, but the award was reduced to 28.9 percent of the total – reflecting Exxon's market share of gasoline sold in the state between 1988 and 2005.
Lawyers for ExxonMobil argued the company used MTBE to meet federal Clean Air Act mandates to reduce air pollution and should not be held liable for sites contaminated by other retail businesses.
The US Environmental Protection Agency had classified MTBE as a possible human carcinogen and New Hampshire banned its use in 2007. The state said that more than 600 wells in New Hampshire are known to be contaminated with MTBE however an expert witness estimated the number could exceed 5,000.
It was reported that ExxonMobil was expected to appeal the decision.
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