New Hampshire battles against oil giants

new Hampshire has become the first state in the us to take on oil giants such as ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco over widespread contamination of its surface water and groundwater due to gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (mtbe). The state has sued 22 corporate entities, including mtbe manufacturers, refiners and big brand marketing firms, apart from the oil majors.

The lawsuit, filed in the Merrimack County Superior Court on September 30, contends that for more than a decade the companies have been mixing dangerously high amounts of the toxic oxygenate with gasoline. The state alleges that the manufacturers and refiners have made a defective product, creating public nuisance and violating local environmental laws.

The plaintiff is seeking all costs associated with addressing the problem, including significant amounts spent on investigation and cleanup. The court has been requested to assess monetary penalties as well. Making out the state's case, New Hampshire attorney general Peter W Heed reportedly observed that mtbe has become a major threat, especially to underground aquifers. Around 60 per cent of the population in the state relies on groundwater for drinking purposes.
The build-up Since 1979, mtbe has been used in New Hampshire as an octane-enhancing replacement for lead. At around the same time, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (epa) registered mtbe as a fuel additive. Although it was used in low concentrations (8 per cent by volume) in gasoline in the 1980s, the industry increased the content to 11-15 per cent after 1990.

The development coincided with the launch of the federal government's