MTBE

We have represented the State of New Hampshire since 2003 in MTBE groundwater pollution litigation against numerous national oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Irving Oil, Shell Oil Co., Amerada Hess Corp., and others. New Hampshire has experienced widespread contamination of its water supplies with Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether ("MTBE"). We have obtained over $130 million in pre-trial settlements and a jury verdict of $236 million against ExxonMobil in 2013.

The State’s lawsuit alleges that the oil companies added MTBE to their gasoline even though they knew that MTBE would contaminate groundwater. MTBE has numerous pernicious properties that spell trouble for groundwater, including a Houdini-like ability to escape from underground fuel tanks, a resistance to biodegradation, a rapid dispersal in groundwater, and a turpentine-like taste at levels of 1 ppb or even lower. Cleaning up MTBE is extremely expensive. From 1995 to 2006 the Clean Air Act required use of an oxygenate in gasoline in some areas of the country to reduce smog. The complaint alleged, however, that oil companies knew of MTBE's harmful characteristics for groundwater when they made MTBE their oxygenate of choice rather than ethanol. New Hampshire became the first State to bring an MTBE case when the Attorney General filed this legal action in 2003.