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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.
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.
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.