Jul 24, 2021 News
After 10-year court battle…
Kaieteur News – United States (US) Overseas Territory (OT)—Puerto Rico—has scored a win against US oil major ExxonMobil Corporation, following a decade long battle, in which the island’s administration had alleged that the company contaminated the island’s groundwater and environment through its operations there.
The US District Court for Puerto Rico has since approved a US$25 million settlement in Puerto Rico’s favour as part of a lawsuit filed more than a decade ago against ExxonMobil Corp. and Esso Standard Oil Co. claiming that the companies contaminated the island’s groundwater.
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, through the Environmental Quality Board, had filed a complaint against ExxonMobil twice — in June 2007 and in September 2013 — which were moved to the US District Court for Puerto Rico.
The island’s administration in its complaints claimed that the company used methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive that permeated into the island’s groundwater, potentially through underground storage tanks.
To this end, the judicial complaint order signed by Judge, Silvia Carreno-Coll, established that ExxonMobil will pay the Government of Puerto Rico the US$25 million settlement in five installments, with the first expected to be paid 30 days after the effective date of the settlement.
The next four payments will take place on or before the first day of each successive quarter.
The order, according to international reports, “establishes that Puerto Rico will use the settlement to pay “to repair, restore and replace injured or lost natural resources…or permanently protect the natural resources…or to investigate and remediate contamination in Puerto Rico, including surveillance, monitoring and treatment of the waters…or for paying oversight and administrative costs,” among other requirements.
Meanwhile, ExxonMobil has since agreed to launch a Risk Based Corrective Action Pilot Program to investigate and complete clean-up actions throughout Puerto Rico in coordination with the EQB, which seeks to categorise the company’s sites and identify appropriate initial responses and provide guidance to Exxon on the steps needed for a timely completion of the clean-up agreed in the order.
ExxonMobil Corp. has in recent years been plagued by a number of climate change related lawsuits including one here in Guyana filed by two Guyanese, through their lawyers.
According to the case, which lists Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, SC, as a representative for the State, the High Court is being asked to determine whether ExxonMobil’s operations violate the Constitutional right of current and future generations to a healthy environment.
The first applicant, Dr. Troy Thomas—a Scientist and a University of Guyana lecturer—while the other, Quadad de Freitas, is a young man from the South Rupununi Region of Guyana, an area rich in biodiversity, now threatened by climate change.
According to Dr. Thomas in the lawsuit, “Guyana is a carbon sink. The Guyanese people are not responsible for climate change, but we are already suffering the effects. Climate change, ocean acidification and rising sea levels pose existential threats to the people and State of Guyana. As a scientist, I urge people to look at the evidence and to face reality.”
The legal team consists of Attorneys-at-Law Melinda Janki and Ronald Burch-Smith, with support from Queens Counsel (QC) Richard Lord, at Brick Court and Joshua Jackson of Cloisters in the UK.
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