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Exxon Mobil defends use of MTBE

Publish date: 12 March 2013
Issue Number: 301
Diary: Legalbrief Environmental
Category: Litigation

A former Exxon Mobil engineer testified last week that environmental hazards surrounding the gasoline additive MTBE were widely discussed in water quality and oil industry circles in the mid-1980s, contradicting the state of New Hampshire's allegations that the oil giant hid its concerns about the product.

A report on the News24 site states that Barbara Mickelson was the first witness as lawyers for Exxon Mobil began presenting their defence against the state's claim that it is owed hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up groundwater contamination caused by MTBE. Jurors had the previous week off after spending six weeks hearing the state's case. New Hampshire filed its product liability lawsuit a decade ago against 26 oil companies and distributors, claiming that MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) is a defective product because of its propensity to travel farther and faster and contaminate larger quantities of water than gasoline without additives. Lawyers for Exxon Mobil, the only defendant that has not settled with the state, argue that MTBE did exactly what it was supposed to do - replace lead in gasoline and cut smog in compliance with the 1990 Clean Air Act. They opened their case by attempting to cast doubt on state witnesses who claimed to be surprised by memos Mickelson wrote describing environmental concerns about MTBE, the report states. Full report on the News24 site