Weitz & Luxenberg P.C. Secures $423 Million MTBE Settlement Against Oil Giants

Source: http://www.weitzlux.com, May 8, 2008

Weitz & Luxenberg P.C. has secured a landmark MTBE settlement against some of the country’s biggest oil companies, which have agreed to pay $423 million in a suit involving the contamination of 153 public water systems nationally.

Of the settlement, Robert Gordon of Weitz & Luxenberg said, “This is an excellent settlement on behalf of our clients. The oil companies knew that MTBE would contaminate drinking water when they used it. The defendants who have settled have lived up to their responsibility by not only paying cash but by offering treatment of future contaminated wells for the next 30 years.”

The MTBE litigation, brought by Weitz & Luxenberg and Baron & Budd, addressed the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE. The chemical is now banned in many states because it can affect the taste and odor of drinking water at extremely low levels

The lawsuit claimed that MTBE was a defective product that led to massive contamination and that the chemical was used by the defendant companies despite those entities being aware that it posed environmental and potential health risks. The Environmental Protection Agency has found that MTBE caused cancer in lab rats exposed to high doses.

Filed on Wednesday with U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in New York, the settlement involves about a dozen oil companies, including ConocoPhillips, Shell, BP, Chevron and Marathon. The original lawsuit, brought in 2003 by public water providers in 17 states, was subsequently consolidated into one federal case. As part of the agreement, the defendants will be required to fund a 30-year clean-up program for contaminated wells and surrounding areas.

Six oil corporations and refineries did not settle, including Exxon Mobil Corp and five smaller companies including chemical maker Lyondell Petrochemical Corp.

“We look forward to trying the case against Exxon Mobil,” said Gordon. “It is not right that the most profitable corporation in the history of the world can contaminate our drinking water knowingly, and then expect the taxpayers to clean up their mess.”

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