The litigation seeking to blame oil companies for (mostly mom-and-pop) gas stations' spills of the government-promoted fuel additive has already extracted nearly half a billion dollars, reports Law.com's The Recorder. (For our coverage, see Dec. 29 and links from there). A key figure on the plaintiff's side is Victor Sher, previously best known for directing the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (now EarthJustice) during the spotted owl controversy. Public water agencies, the primary complainant in MTBE cases, are ordinarily shy of litigation but have been brought on board by the lure of seemingly risk-free contingency deals. And it seems the MTBE campaign is going to serve as a model for blaming groundwater contamination more generally on original manufacturers of products that eventually find their way into water tables: Sher & Co. are "applying defective product arguments to a host of other chemicals, including pesticides, dry cleaning fluids, semiconductor solvents and compounds used to pressure-treat lumber. "
MTBE's cash leak
Center for Legal Policy at the