A former Exxon Mobil engineer has testified that environmental hazards involving the gasoline additive MTBE were widely discussed in water quality and industrial circles in the mid-1980s -- contradicting the state of New Hampshire's allegations that the company hid concerns.
Barbara Mickelson was the first witness as lawyers for the oil company today began laying out their defense against the state claim that the oil giant should pay hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up groundwater contamination caused by the additive. Mickelson worked for the oil company in the mid-1980s.
New Hampshire filed its product liability lawsuit a decade ago against 26 oil companies. Exxon Mobil is the only defendant that has not settled with the state and claims it did exactly what it was supposed to do under the federal Clean Air Act by replacing lead in gasoline.
New Hampshire is the only state to have reached the trial stage in a lawsuit over MTBE, with most cases filed by municipalities and others ending in settlements.