Top court declines Exxon's appeal in water pollution case

WASHINGTON Mon Apr 21, 2014 10:04am EDT

A view of the Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown, Texas September 15, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

A view of the Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown, Texas September 15, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a ruling against Exxon Mobil Corp that ordered the company to pay $105 million in damages for polluting New York City's groundwater with a toxic gasoline additive.

The decision not to hear the case leaves intact a July 2 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the judgment.

In 2009, a jury concluded that Exxon contaminated water supply wells when the additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), leaked from its underground storage tanks in the borough of Queens.

The appeals court rejected Exxon's arguments that it was required to use the additive under the federal Clean Air Act. An oxygen-containing substance that is added to gasoline to promote more complete combustion and reduce air pollution, MTBE was one of several additives recommended by regulators to reduce emissions.

It has now largely been phased out of the U.S. fuel supply because of its danger to groundwater.

New York City claimed Exxon went ahead and used the chemical in the 1980s through the first half of the 2000s despite warnings from its own scientists and engineers that it could be harmful in areas that relied on groundwater for drinking.

MTBE has been identified as an animal carcinogen and a possible human carcinogen and causes water to smell foul and taste bad.

The water wells in southeast Queens that were contaminated serve as a backup supply for the city's drinking water when the reservoirs upstate go offline because of repairs or droughts.

The New York case was intended serve as a bellwether case to provide guidance for other MTBE complaints that have been brought around the country.

The case is Exxon Mobil v. City of New York, U.S. Supreme Court, 13-842.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Will Dunham)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (6)
AlkalineState wrote:
“The appeals court rejected Exxon’s arguments that it was required to use the additive under the federal Clean Air Act.”

Well duh. You don’t get to contaminate a public drinking water supply because you stored your goodies wrong. If Exxon can’t handle their materials properly, they should get out of the business and let their competitors do it.

Apr 21, 2014 12:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Acetracy wrote:
Of course let’s not forget that Exxon also polluted the whole Gewonus Canal area of Brooklyn for decades without notifying anyone. It wasn’t until residents started smelling fuel coming through their floorboards that Exxon owned up. However, the company fought NYC, NY State and EPA for years and years in court to get out of any liability.

What isn’t said here is the $millions spent in tax payers dollars to bring Exxon to court and to defend against appeals that go on for years. To Exxon it is a matter of course to run a business that pollutes until it gets caught. Then when it does get caught, fight the case for decades to wind down the opposition.

Little solace to the poor residents of Queens and Brooklyn who are wondering when their own cancer cases will become reality – but hey, all it the name of CAPITALISM!! John D would be proud.

Apr 21, 2014 12:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Acetracy wrote:
Of course let’s not forget that Exxon also polluted the whole Gewonus Canal area of Brooklyn for decades without notifying anyone. It wasn’t until residents started smelling fuel coming through their floorboards that Exxon owned up. However, the company fought NYC, NY State and EPA for years and years in court to get out of any liability.

What isn’t said here is the $millions spent in tax payers dollars to bring Exxon to court and to defend against appeals that go on for years. To Exxon it is a matter of course to run a business that pollutes until it gets caught. Then when it does get caught, fight the case for decades to wind down the opposition.

Little solace to the poor residents of Queens and Brooklyn who are wondering when their own cancer cases will become reality – but hey, all it the name of CAPITALISM!! John D would be proud.

Apr 21, 2014 12:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.