News & Insights

New Jersey Announces $196 Million In Mtbe Settlements

Shell, BP and Sunoco have agreed to pay $196.5 million to resolve New Jersey’s contamination claims over a gasoline additive that seeped into groundwater throughout the state.  The case is the first to be finalized since voters approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting money from such lawsuits being diverted away from cleanup and restoration of natural resources. 

The suit, which was filed over a decade ago by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, alleged the manufacture, blending and distribution of the additive known as methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, affected the groundwater.   The suit named major petroleum refiners, distributors and sellers of gasoline in New Jersey, as well as independent chemical manufacturers, as defendants.

The suit alleged MTBE was detected in groundwater at over 6,000 sites throughout the state.  Oil companies began adding methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, to gasoline in order to clean up auto emissions and comply with federal air regulations enacted in the Clean Air Act of 1990.  At the time, New Jersey was not in compliance with federal health-quality standards for the pollutant.

New Jersey has now secured settlements of more than $350 million from various companies named in the multidistrict litigation.  The state continues to pursue MTBE damage claims against the remaining defendants, which include ExxonMobil.