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Author Topic: Exxon Mobil Begins Defense in New Hampshire MTBE Trial Back to Topics
DoctorV

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Message Posted: Mar 5, 2013 7:43:56 AM

Exxon Mobil’s first witness in the trial over its alleged contamination of New Hampshire’s water with a gasoline additive said she changed her mind about the chemical’s dangers after issuing a warning to the company.

The Irving, Texas-based oil company will try to convince a jury that federal law required the use of the additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether, and that it didn’t harm anyone in New Hampshire. The company began presenting its case yesterday in Concord. The trial started Jan. 14.

Barbara Mickelson, a former Exxon Mobil marketing executive, testified yesterday that a few years after filing a report in 1984 stating that adding MTBE to gasoline might result in significant cleanup costs if it leaked into the groundwater, she changed her opinion.


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drpepperTX
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Message Posted: Mar 7, 2013 12:46:37 AM

DoctorV, actually the use of MTBE was not expressly mandated but refiners used it in most markets because it was the only practical option given supply, cost and transportation issues. Congress and the EPA fully expected and intended the industry to rely on MTBE to comply with its directive. So for all practical purposes teenitup is correct. It is wrong to sue companies for following the directive of Congress to add an oxygenate like MTBE to gasoline, when Congress and the EPA expected and intended MTBE to be used to fulfill their mandate.
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DoctorV
Champion Author Detroit

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Message Posted: Mar 6, 2013 7:24:13 PM

The government didn't mandate MTBE, they mandated oxygenate use in gasoline. The industry preferred MTBE.
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teenitup
Champion Author Houston

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Message Posted: Mar 6, 2013 4:53:28 PM

Not doubtful at all, the givernment did mandate MTBE. and it does matter since government is now suing companies for givernment mandates.
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crep1291
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Message Posted: Mar 6, 2013 3:42:00 PM

It's doubtful that the federal government mandated the use of MTBE. From what I remember, the EPA mandated the use of oxygenates (like MTBE or ethanol). MTBE was cheaper back then...

It doesn't matter whether the risks were known, whether oil companies were required to use MTBE or not. Oil companies had to make sure MTBE wouldn't contaminate ground water. Just pay up the fine and clean up your mess.
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teenitup
Champion Author Houston

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Message Posted: Mar 6, 2013 3:04:35 PM

How the Environmental Protection Agency Became a Public Health Risk

"If the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established to safeguard the nation's environment, then why does it require people to purchase gasoline that pollutes the water and makes them sick?

That, after all, is the result of the EPA's controversial policy of requiring certain regions of the nation to sell gasoline that contains methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive that was supposed to help the environment.

Pursuant to the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, the EPA required that areas of the nation with the worst ozone smog problems use "environmentally-friendly" reformulated gasoline (RFG) to help achieve the agency's clean air goals. MTBE is the gasoline oxygen additive that the petroleum industry most commonly used to satisfy the EPA's mandate of reducing smog-producing tailpipe emissions.1 By 1999, it was used in 30% of the nation's gasoline supply. As many as 16 states, including California, sold MTBE gasoline.2

However, this seemingly laudable activity has proven to be a costly public health debacle. The EPA ordered the costly MTBE requirement despite scientific research indicating that RFG would not reduce air pollution. A 1999 National Research Council study - requested and funded by the EPA - found that while RFG and MTBE "do reduce some pollutants from motor vehicle emissions, the oxygenates appear to have little impact on lowering ozone levels."3 Incredibly, the EPA ignored this study and implemented regulations in 2000 to increase the use of RFG. Further, the need for oxygenated fuels may be unfounded, inasmuch as 75-85% of smog in major cities is from non-automobile sources4 and tailpipe emissions of new cars are 95% lower than they were in the 1960s.5

But MTBE's ineffectiveness as an anti-pollutant was only the tip of the EPA's regulatory miscarriage. MTBE poses significant health risks. The liquid is highly soluble in water and has been detected in approximately 20% of the ground water where RFG is sold, while there is only a 2% detection rate in non-RFG areas.6 A University of California study found that MTBE has affected at least 10,000 groundwater sites throughout that state.7 Besides presenting a turpentine like taste and odor to water, the additive is believed to be a human carcinogen and has caused maternal and fetal defects in lab animals. It also causes headaches, nausea, vomiting, disorientation and eye irritation upon exposure. The use of MTBE in RFG has also been shown to increase formaldehyde tailpipe emissions (a human carcinogen) by 13%.8

Confronted with these disturbing findings, the EPA finally admitted that the MTBE mandate was a major mistake. In March 2000, EPA administrator Carol Browner, once an ardent MTBE proponent, announced that the agency would phase out the MTBE mandate. This comes only eight years after use of the oxygenate was first encouraged by the EPA as a safe and effective way to reduce ozone depleting tailpipe emissions.9

In addition to doing little for the environment and posing serious health risks, MTBE has a harmful effect on wallets. With gas prices averaging $1.71 per gallon nationwide in June, many Americans can ill-afford to pay an additional 10 cents per gallon for gasoline containing MTBE.10 These costs are magnified by the fact that gasoline oxygenated with MTBE results in an average 2-3% loss of fuel efficiency.11

Elevated gas prices have hit low income and minority populations the hardest. Frustrated with the EPA's initial refusal to address its flawed RFG policy, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) observed in June that "working families are bearing the brunt of EPA's inaction."12 In 1998, a year marked by the second lowest gas prices on record, African-American households spent an average of $1,121 on gasoline, natural gas and other fuels while spending just $1,069 on health care. Similarly, the poorest 20% of the population spent 4.43% of their total expenditures on gasoline, natural gas and other fuels while the richest 20% spent just 3% of total expenditures on fuels but purchased almost twice as much gasoline as the poorest 20%.13

The costs for cleaning up MTBE pollution are ultimately borne by the consumer. Annual MTBE treatment costs range up to an average of $391 per family of four, which includes a federal gasoline surtax that funds state clean-up programs.14 This is an onerous expenditure indeed for the typical household in the lowest 20% of the income bracket with an average after-tax income of just $7,049.15

EPA's MTBE debacle poignantly illustrates the price we all pay when sound science is ignored. Had EPA shown more patience and listened to its own experts, this costly pollution of the nation's water supply need not have occurred. But the agency didn't listen and now Americans, especially minorities and the poor, are paying the price for the EPA's mistake. "
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DoctorV
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Message Posted: Mar 6, 2013 12:11:04 PM

Exxon Mobil exec: MTBE an 'outstanding' additive

Dugan says Exxon Mobil delayed using MTBE as a gasoline additive to study its health and environmental impacts. He said some company executives criticized his study committee for taking so long and reducing Exxon Mobil's competitive edge in the marketplace.

Dugan said the study committee in June 1985 recommended using MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, saying the environmental risks were manageable. He testified that the committee's final report included concerns raised by former Exxon Mobil engineer Barbara Mickelson, including that MTBE would move farther and faster if leaked into water supplies and be more costly and difficult to remediate.

"We wanted management to be fully aware of all the concerns raised," Dugan said.

Dugan said they rejected using methanol as being too hazardous, with as little as a teaspoonful capable of causing blindness. Ethanol was ruled out, he said, because it could cause vapor lock in car engines and some auto manufacturers were warning consumers that they would not honor warranties if the car owner used gasoline with ethanol.

Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2013/03/04/2416109/exxonmobil-begins-its-defense.html#storylink=cpy

[Edited by: DoctorV at 3/6/2013 12:11:37 PM EST]
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DoctorV
Champion Author Detroit

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Message Posted: Mar 6, 2013 12:08:16 PM

Exxon Mobil Witness Says MTBE Benefits Outweighed Risks

Victor Dugan, a former Exxon executive, testified that the company sought input from experts for 15 months before recommending the addition of MTBE to gasoline in 1985 as a means of reducing air pollution. He also said the company spent $150 million to replace storage tanks before approving its use.

“We were charged by our vice president to turn over every rock and address all concerns that had been raised,” said Dugan, who retired last year. “It was an outstanding blending component. Never caused any problems.”

Barbara Mickelson, another retired Exxon Mobil executive, testified yesterday as the company’s first witness that although she filed a report in 1984 stating that adding MTBE to gasoline might result in significant cleanup costs if it leaked into the groundwater, she changed her opinion after further research.

Dugan said today that Mickelson’s memo was taken seriously by the company and that his department concluded that the benefits outweighed the risks. He also said that gasoline dealers and distributors were warned of the possible dangers of the additive.

Studies by the American Petroleum Institute were cited in court showing that at mid-to-high levels of ingestion or inhalation MTBE elevated the risk of brain tumors, liver cancer, blood cancer and kidney cancer in mice and rats. Exxon Mobil said there has been no evidence that MTBE causes illness in humans.
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drpepperTX
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Message Posted: Mar 6, 2013 11:05:34 AM

Great point JohnofGB and good additional point teenitup.
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teenitup
Champion Author Houston

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Message Posted: Mar 5, 2013 1:50:46 PM

Agree with JohnofGB, no one ever mentions that our "looking out for you" federal givernment ordered the use of MTBE in the first place.
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humblepie
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Message Posted: Mar 5, 2013 1:47:48 PM

this will be a marathon not a sprint
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dabayer
Champion Author New Hampshire

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Message Posted: Mar 5, 2013 1:31:42 PM

"... The Irving, Texas-based oil company will try to convince a jury ... that it didn’t harm anyone in New Hampshire. ..."

What about the 40,000 wells that are contaminated and no longer usable? Didn't harm anyone???

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Buckeyee
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Message Posted: Mar 5, 2013 9:46:51 AM

Your right JohnofGB !!
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bojiway1
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Message Posted: Mar 5, 2013 8:44:25 AM

Ok
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imiev
Sophomore Author Long Island

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Message Posted: Mar 5, 2013 8:21:21 AM

Its gonna get ugly.
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amoshins
Champion Author Trenton

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Message Posted: Mar 5, 2013 8:07:19 AM

Interesting that Exxon-Mobil held out for a trial after 10 years, even when the other oil companies settled. I think NH is going to have a hard time getting any money out of Exxon-Mobil given MD ruled in the company's favor in a similar trial.

[Edited by: amoshins at 3/5/2013 8:07:31 AM EST]
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JohnofGB
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Message Posted: Mar 5, 2013 7:51:42 AM

This is more the fault of the state not requiring double bottom gasoline storage tanks and the owners of those gas stations than Exxon. This must be a deep pocket thing.
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