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MTBE Litigation Background
Lawsuits against those who release gasoline, with or without MTBE, into the environment have been common for decades.



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MTBE Litigation

MTBE Litigation

Those who spill or leak gasoline – with or without MTBE – are required by law to clean it up. If they do not do so, litigation may be appropriate. In the past few years, a different type of lawsuit has emerged; one which seeks to bypass this “spiller pays” rule and, instead, hold the oil industry liable for putting MTBE in gasoline in the first place. The lawyers who have filed these cases claim that gasoline containing MTBE is a defective product. It is not. MTBE did what it was supposed to do -- help clean the air. It is wrong to sue companies for following the directive of Congress to add an oxygenate like MTBE to gasoline, when Congress and the EPA expected and intended MTBE to be used to fulfill that mandate.


What Is MTBE?

MTBE Litigation

Methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) is a chemical compound added to gasoline to make it burn cleaner and more efficiently. It is an “oxygenate”; it raises the oxygen content of gasoline. Oxygenates help gasoline burn more completely, reducing harmful tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles. In 1990, Congress amended the Clean Air Act to effectively require refiners to add MTBE to gasoline in order to combat air pollution. It worked. MTBE helped reduce air pollution significantly. 


The companies sponsoring this site, BP Products North America Inc., Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and Shell Oil Company, share the concerns of communities whose drinking water may have an unpleasant taste or odor due to the presence of MTBE. Those who are responsible for a gasoline leak or spill that results in MTBE in drinking water at levels above drinking water standards should clean it up, including our companies if we are responsible. But holding the oil industry liable for following a congressional mandate to add MTBE to gasoline is inappropriate and counterproductive to efforts to require responsible parties to clean up. 

This Web site is intended to assist the media in understanding MTBE litigation and the issues underlying the litigation. If you have any questions, please call contact Audrey at 202-469-5194.

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