Puerto Rico wins $25M settlement from ExxonMobil contaminant suit
The US District Court for Puerto Rico approved a $25 million settlement in Puerto Rico’s favor as part of a lawsuit the Commonwealth filed more than a decade ago against ExxonMobil Corp. and Esso Standard Oil Co. claiming the companies contaminated the island’s groundwater.
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, through the Environmental Quality Board, filed a complaint against ExxonMobil twice — in June 2007 and in September 2013 — which were moved to the US District Court for Puerto Rico.
In its complaints, the government claimed that the company used methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive, that permeated into the island’s groundwater, potentially through underground storage tanks.
The judicial complaint order signed by Judge Silvia Carreno-Coll establishes that ExxonMobil will pay the government of Puerto Rico the $25 million settlement in five installments, with the first expected to be paid 30 days after the effective date of the settlement. The next four payments will take place on or before the first day of each successive quarter.
The order establishes that Puerto Rico will use the settlement to pay “to repair, restore, and replace injured or lost natural resources…or permanently protect the natural resources…or to investigate and remediate contamination in Puerto Rico, including surveillance, monitoring and treatment of the waters…or for paying oversight and administrative costs,” among other requirements.
Meanwhile, ExxonMobil has agreed to launch a Risk Based Corrective Action Pilot Program to investigate and complete clean-up actions throughout Puerto Rico in coordination with the EQB, which seeks to categorize the company’s sites and identify appropriate initial responses and provide guidance to Exxon on the steps needed for a timely completion of the cleanup agreed in the order.
There are hundreds of sites across the island that could potentially be contaminated with the fuel additive.