State Supreme Court Affirms Lower Court’s Decisions Against Exxon

The New Hampshire Attorney General announced early this week that the Supreme Court has affirmed the lower court decisions in their $236 million case against Exxon involving widespread contamination of local groundwater with the gasoline additive Methyl-tertiary-Butyl Ether (MtBE).

The Court also determined that the State was entitled to prejudgment interest, which will be tens of millions of dollars, in addition to the $90 million the State previously received in settlements from several other gasoline suppliers that settled with the State prior to trial, according to an Oct. 2 press release from Attorney General Joseph Foster. The Court further ruled that the verdict money would not be subject to a trust.

“This is the result we had hoped for. It provides essential resources in recognition of the jury’s findings that our state’s groundwater and drinking water is contaminated with MtBE, that the contamination needs to be cleaned up, and that safe drinking water supplies need to be ensured,” said Thomas Burack, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES). “With this decision, New Hampshire is a vital step closer to cleaner groundwater and healthier drinking water.”

Through the Governor’s Office, the State will move forward with the process of determining how to utilize those funds for the greatest benefit to the people of New Hampshire.

Kevin Smith, Londonderry Town Manager, said although the award would not mean the town would receive a check for mitigation of impacts to the Town’s groundwater as a result of gasoline leaks, the funds do go to programs the State has already brought to Londonderry to monitor groundwater.

Last year, funds from the initial $90 million in settlements the State received from other gasoline suppliers were used to subsidize free well water testing for MtBE contamination at homes on Bockes Road near its intersection with Mammoth Road, as well as homes near the intersection of Nashua Road (Route 102) and Gilcreast Road – sites where there were known gasoline releases.

“This is the most significant environmental victory in the history of the State. This historic decision sends a clear message that New Hampshire will not permit polluters to endanger the health of its citizens and destroy its natural resources,” Foster said of the Supreme Court’s Oct. 2 decision. “The vigilance of the State’s attorneys in bringing this suit as well as the State agency employees who spent thousands of hours providing testimony and responding to discovery, the leadership of the executive branch, and the support of the Legislature are all testaments to New Hampshire’s determination to ensure that justice is done.”

The State expects that Exxon will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

See related story on page 9.

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