New Hampshire Silences Opponents of Statewide Environmental Litigation and Enacts MTBE Trust Fund

April 5, 2016

New Hampshire Governor Margaret Hassan has signed into law Senate Bill 380 establishing a statewide groundwater trust fund and advisory commission. The law will ensure that the funds recovered in the lawsuit against ExxonMobil and other suppliers of MTBE gasoline will be administered to provide continual funding for the investigation and remediation of MTBE contaminated groundwater. By enacting SB 380, the New Hampshire Legislature has effectively and forcefully silenced ExxonMobil’s claim that the State was simply going to use the litigation funds to pad the State’s general fund. The Legislature’s action ensures the funds will be used to ensure access to safe and clean drinking water now and in the future.

The San Francisco-based law firm SL Environmental Law Group was co-lead counsel with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office in the historic trial against ExxonMobil for damages caused from the distribution of MTBE gasoline in the State. After securing over $136 million in settlements from the other defendants to the lawsuit, the lawyers at SL Environmental Law Group led the three month trial that resulted in a $236 million jury verdict against ExxonMobil.

SL Environmental Law Group’s founder Alexander Leff said “I am extremely proud that we were able to partner with the Attorney General to bring this substantial financial benefit to the State. With the passage of this legislation, the Governor and Legislature have guaranteed that the funds we helped recover will now be used to provide access to safe and clean drinking water.” Richard Head, who was Associate Attorney General at the time of the trial and is now a partner at SL Environmental Law Group, said “the jury sent a clear message that the costs associated with the contamination of drinking water should be paid for by those who are responsible for the pollution, not the citizens. The creation of this groundwater fund helps to ensure that the goal of the litigation will be achieved.”

SL Environmental Law Group is the leading law firm in representing states, municipalities, and water systems in groundwater contamination cost-recovery litigation. It is the only firm in the country to have obtained jury verdicts in MTBE contamination cases on behalf of public entities. In addition to the New Hampshire victory, SL was lead counsel for the City of New York to recover damages caused by MTBE groundwater contamination. In 2009, after reaching settlements with all but one defendant, a federal jury returned a verdict for $104.7 million, which was affirmed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals

SL Environmental Law Group has represented more than 30 public entity and utility clients in drinking water contamination cases.  Its experience includes helping clients address contamination not only from MTBE, but also a number of other emerging chemicals of concern that are contaminating our nation’s water supplies.