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CONCORD, N.H. – A New Hampshire jury ordered ExxonMobil Corp. to pay $236 million in damages to monitor and treat systems contaminated by the additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) in the state.
As CSNews Online previously reported, the Granite State sued ExxonMobil and CITGO on Jan. 14 for alleged MTBE contamination. CITGO settled just one day later for $16 million.
However, Irving, Texas-based ExxonMobil denied any wrongdoing and stated it would not settle the case. Instead, the oil company’s lawyers argued that it used MTBE to meet federal Clean Air Act mandates to reduce air pollution.
The verdict is the largest in New Hampshire state history. Although the case went on for nearly three months, jurors only took 20 minutes to come to a decision. "It was just cut and [dried]," juror Dawn Booker told the AP. "We all pretty much had our decision before we went in there."
New Hampshire sought $816 million in damages from ExxonMobil due to MTBE contamination. The jury awarded the state the entire amount. However, the award was reduced to 28.9 percent of that total, representing ExxonMobil’s share of gasoline sold in the state between 1998 and 2005.
Jurors also found ExxonMobil liable for failing to warn distributors and consumers about MTBE’s contaminating characteristics.
Although the verdict is considered large by most standards, Fadel Gheit, managing director of oil and gas research at Oppenheimer & Co., told the news outlet it would make no difference in ExxonMobil’s bottom line. "Exxon will probably make close to a $40 billion profit this year," he said. "[The jury verdict represents just] two days’ work."
ExxonMobil attorneys told the Associated Press they will appeal the decision.