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R.I. settles with 2 more gas refiners over MTBE contamination

The settlements bring the total amount recovered from MTBE lawsuits to $19.85 million, which supports ongoing cleanup of MTBE by the R.I. Department of Environmental Management

British Petroleum will pay $205,000 in principle, and Coastal Corporation will pay $940,000, Neronha’s office said.Simon Dawson/Photographer: Simon Dawson

PROVIDENCE — Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office settled lawsuits against two more gasoline refiners alleged to have caused pollution of Rhode Island’s soil and groundwater with a gas additive called MTBE.

Coastal Corporation will pay $940,000 and British Petroleum will pay $205,000 in principle, Neronha’s office said. The money will be dedicated to ongoing work to clean up MTBE, or methyl tertiary-butyl ether, by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

The settlements bring the total amount recovered by Rhode Island from MTBE lawsuits to $19.85 million. The state previously settled with refiners Shell, Sunoco, CITGO, Hess, Total Petrochemicals & Refining USA, Inc., Marathon, Conoco, Chevron, Irving, and Valero.


The state’s litigation against ExxonMobil is still ongoing. A class action lawsuit ended in a separate settlement with ExxonMobil in 2012 over the 2001 contamination of Pascoag’s water supply, Neronha’s office said.

“MBTE contamination of public water supplies poses a significant public health and safety risk, one which oil and gas companies knew about well before the public did,” Neronha said in a news release. “The work to remediate contaminated water supplies continues, and the funds recovered to date, now totaling nearly $20 million, will be exclusively dedicated to doing that work. In the meantime, this Office remains strongly committed to ensuring that the remaining oil and gas defendants are held responsible for the damage they have caused to the people of Rhode Island and the environment.”

According to Neronha’s office, MTBE has leaked from underground storage tanks, like the ones found at gas stations, contaminating groundwater and soil in Rhode Island and around the country. MTBE is considered a probable human carcinogen, and, banned in Rhode Island since 2007, is expensive to clean up and poses serious health risks even at very low levels.

Rhode Island’s suit, originally filed in 2016, alleges that the defendants “promoted, marketed, distributed, supplied, and sold gasoline and other petroleum products containing MTBE, when they knew, or reasonably should have known, that MTBE would be released into the environment and cause contamination in Rhode Island’s water supply — threatening public health and welfare,” Neronha’s office said.


Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.