The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear Exxon Mobil’s challenge to a verdict requiring the company to pay $105 million for contaminating New York City groundwater with a toxic gasoline additive called methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE.
The high court made no comment in denying Exxon Mobil’s petition for a writ of certiorari. By denying the appeal, the court leaves in place a 2009 judgment entered against it at a jury trial before Southern District Judge Shira Scheindlin (See Profile).
MTBE, commonly used from the 1980s through early 2000s, has been banned from New York and at least two dozen other states.
The city sued the oil giant in 2003, arguing it recklessly disregarded evidence that MTBE caused cancer in animals and possibly humans. It also argued Exxon Mobil concealed this fact from gas station owners, water suppliers, government agencies and the public, allowing the substance to seep into the city’s groundwater from underground gasoline storage tanks. The $105 million was meant to cover cleanup costs.
Exxon Mobil appealed, and the Second Circuit affirmed the judgment in July (NYLJ, July 29, 2013). Exxon Mobil then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Susan Amron, chief of the city Law Department’s environmental law division, led the case for the city. She is joined by Paul Smith of Jenner & Block in Washington, D.C., along with two California firms, Sher Leff LLP and Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger.
Amron in a statement said this “is a long-fought victory for the city and its water resources.”
Exxon was represented by Paul Clement of Bancroft PLLC in Washington, D.C.