New Hampshire Sues 22 Oil Companies Over MTBE Pollution

In a first-of-its-kind move by a state, New Hampshire filed suit against 22 oil companies yesterday, blaming them for contaminating drinking water with the fuel additive MTBE. The companies added the chemical to their gasoline to make it burn more cleanly, but it has leached into more than 15 percent of public water supplies and an estimated 40,000 private wells in the state. Other communities around the country have also uncovered MTBE contamination in their drinking water. “These companies knew of the dangers that adding MTBE to gasoline posed to the water resources,” said New Hampshire Attorney General Peter Heed. “They, and not the state or its citizens, should pay the bill to fully address this unprecedented environmental problem.” But if Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and other powerful Republicans have their way, the big energy bill now being hammered out in Congress will include a provision that protects oil companies from MTBE-contamination lawsuits.