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In re Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether Products Liability Litigation

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20171
Nos. 10-4135-cv (L), 10-4329-cv (XAP), (2d Cir., 07/26/2013)

The Second Circuit affirmed a lower court decision finding oil companies liable for contaminating New York City wells with methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and awarding a $104.69 million judgment in favor of the city. A jury had found the companies liable under New York tort law for contaminating the wells with MTBE, which was used as a gasoline additive from the mid-1980s through the mid-2000s, and whose use New York state banned as of 2004. On appeal, the companies argued primarily that the city's common law claims are preempted by the federal CAA, which, from the mid-1990s through 2004, required use of gasoline oxygenates, such as MTBE, in New York City. But the CAA and its 1990 Amendments fail to express a congressional intent to override state tort law, and the companies failed to demonstrate that the doctrine of conflict preemption applies in this case. The court also rejected the company's arguments that the city suffered no cognizable injuries, that the claims are not ripe or barred by the statute of limitations, and that the city failed to prove injury or causation. The city's arguments on cross-appeal, pertaining to damages, were rejected as well.