The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear Exxon Mobil Corp.’s appeal of a $105 million jury verdict for polluting New York City’s groundwater with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether. This decision leaves in place a Second Circuit decision upholding the verdict. The high court denied a certiorari petition by Exxon attempting to appeal the Second Circuit’s January decision. The appeals court had upheld the penalty handed down in 2009 by a federal jury that concluded Exxon had failed to warn people about the dangers of the chemical commonly known as MTBE. The oil giant had argued that its use of the chemical was in response to a federal air pollution mandate.
New York City sued Exxon in 2003 over MTBE-treated gasoline leakage into Queens water wells known as the Station Six Wells, a system that was not operative but which the city said it planned to use in the future. Following a lengthy trial in October 2009, a jury in New York federal court found Exxon liable. The Second Circuit kept the verdict intact, concluding that the Clean Air Act did not force Exxon to use MTBE. The appeals court noted that the jury also found that Exxon failed to “exercise ordinary care” in preventing and cleaning up gasoline spills, along with other improper conduct. The city said it intends to use the wells as a drinking water source in the future and that MTBE will be in the wells when they begin operating.
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