For more than twenty years, oil companies in the United Sates have added Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) to gasoline. MTBE can increase the octane number of gasoline. But it is also a known carcinogen in rodents and can leak from underground storage tanks and contaminate ground water. That’s exactly what happened in the state of New Hampshire, a state that has particularly vulnerable hydrogeology due to the presence of fractured bedrock.
Jessica Grant of Venable, LLC in San Francisco took on the first state-wide MTBE contamination case for the state of New Hampshire. In New Hampshire v. Hess Corporation et al, Grant and her legal team represented the state in its lawsuit against 23 oil companies, including ExxonMobil. Grant and her team uncovered internal documents from ExxonMobil proving that the company knew about the risks of MTBE contamination in a place like New Hampshire and that it’s own engineers recommended against putting the additive in gasoline that would be sold in New Hampshire.
Grant’s team won an $816 million jury verdict that will go to cleaning up the MTBE contamination as well as testing and monitoring private drinking wells across the state. The case got Jessica Grant nominated for Public Justice’s Trial Lawyer of the Year award in 2014.
This video was one of five that I produced for Public Justice this past summer as a team member at Rich Tolsma Productions. Thanks to John Nolan at Rich Tolsma Productions for the nice title and lower third graphics and to Jessica Grant for providing graphics from the case.