Oil companies settle MTBE claims

Oil companies settle MTBE claims

Several major oil companies agreed to a multimillion dollar deal to settle lawsuits surrounding their use of the gasoline additive MTBE, a potential carcinogen that has been found in drinking water.

Companies including BP PLC’s BP America Inc., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s Shell Oil Co., Marathon Oil Corp. and Valero Energy Corp. agreed to pay a total of $422 million to settle the claims brought by 153 public water systems.

The agreement also calls for the companies to pay 70 percent of cleanup costs for wells contaminated by MTBE over the next 30 years, suggesting the total payout could rise, said Scott Summy, an attorney representing water systems in 17 states.

MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, is a chemical added to gasoline to boost its octane level and cut air pollution. It was first added to gasoline in 1979, but its use declined after it was found in some communities’ drinking water supplies and banned in a number of states.

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