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NEW YORK -- A Montana jury ordered ChevronTexaco Corp., the No. 2 U.S. oil company, to pay $40.3 million for environmental damage from a gasoline pipeline leak in 1955, reported Reuters.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday the case is of potential concern for energy companies that under the 1980s-era Superfund law have been held responsible for leftover contamination at defunct refineries.
ChevronTexaco, based in San Ramon, Calif., said it will appeal.
According to the newspaper, the case concerned underground contamination at the old Sunburst Works refinery in Sunburst, Mont. Residents of Sunburst and the farming community's school district sued in 2001, claiming ChevronTexaco failed to adequately clean up the oil spill, and that leftover toxins were harming public health and property values.
The company said it had pumped the ground clean for two years after the leak, and is still monitoring pollution levels. It also said there is "no health risk," an assessment that state regulators have agreed with.
The Great Falls, Mont., jury awarded the plaintiffs $15.3 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages, the newspaper said. Legal experts told the paper the award could lead to more lawsuits elsewhere, at least in Montana, which has more than 200 Superfund sites.