One Local Attorney's Figured Out How to Get Money Out of Big Oil

Baron & Budd's Scott Summy

The new issue of Forbes alerts us this morning to Baron & Budd attorney Scott Summy's multi-million-dollar victory last month, when he got Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Shell, bp and several other major gas and oil producers to fork over a combined $423 million. The Big Oil companies are divvying up the dough among 153 public water providers in 17 states, who claimed in court that their water supplies have been contaminated by methyl tertiary butyl ether, a gasoline additive since 1979 intended to reduce air pollution but which Summy and Russell Budd contend "has leaked from underground storage tanks and contaminated nearby groundwater throughout the United States."

Only, Forbes seems a little skeptical: "Though MTBE sometimes seeps into groundwater, imparting a foul odor, there's still scant evidence that the chemical poses a health risk, as Summy has contended." For now, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry more or less concurs. But, really, as I haven't been an MTBE expert since I stopped huffing gas, I'll leave it to the experts.

Nonetheless, the suit continues as Summy gets to take on the local boys in a courtroom: ExxonMobil, which refused to settle. --Robert Wilonsky

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