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Citgo to pay N.H. $16 million to settle pollution lawsuit

By Bryan Cohen | Feb 18, 2013

CONCORD, N.H. (Legal Newsline) - New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney's office will be in charge of distributing the funds from a recent $16 million settlement with petroleum company Citgo that resolves allegations of groundwater contamination.

Delaney's office alleged that the gasoline additive MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, caused groundwater contamination in the state. About 60 percent of the state's population relies on private wells for drinking water. The state filed a lawsuit against 26 petroleum companies a decade ago, The Associated Press reports.

By the time the trial began on Jan. 14, only Citgo and ExxonMobil remained as defendants. Citgo filed a request to be removed from the case two days into the trial.

Delaney's office will distribute the funds to monitor and remediate contaminated wells and public drinking supplies.

MTBE was first used in gasoline to replace lead, increase octane and reduce smog-causing emissions in the 1970s. In the late 1990s, MTBE was found to contaminate drinking water more than non-treated gasoline when it seeps into groundwater.

The New Hampshire lawsuit is the only suit brought by a state to reach trial on the issue of groundwater contamination with MTBE.

About one month before the trial began, Sunoco Inc. and Shell Oil Co. agreed to pay the state a total of $35 million.

The trial will continue with ExxonMobil as the sole defendant. The state plans to wrap up its case this week with the trial expected to last through April, The AP reports.

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