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Exxon Mobil told to pay N.H. $236m

CONCORD, N.H. — Exxon Mobil Corp. was found liable Tuesday in a long-running lawsuit over groundwater contamination caused by the gasoline additive MTBE, and the jury ordered the oil giant to pay $236 million to New Hampshire to clean it up.

The jurors reached their verdicts in less than 90 minutes, after sitting through nearly three months of testimony. Lawyers on both sides were stunned by the speed with which they reached the verdict on liability and even more stunned when the jurors took barely 20 minutes more to fill out the damages verdict.

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The panel awarded the state all $236 million it was seeking to monitor and clean up the contaminated groundwater. The chemical was added to gasoline to reduce smog but was found to travel farther and more rapidly in groundwater than gasoline without the additive.

Exxon Mobil lawyers made it clear outside the jury’s presence last week that they were laying the groundwork for an appeal.

The verdict is more than twice the $105 million jurors awarded the New York City Water District in 2009 in its case against Exxon Mobil over MTBE contamination. That case is on appeal.

Jessica Grant, the state’s lead lawyer, said it was the largest verdict to date in an MTBE case. A financial analyst noted that the award represents about two days’ worth of profit for the company.

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