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Supreme Court leaves ruling against Exxon intact for polluting NYC’s groundwater

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By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a ruling against Exxon Mobil Corp that ordered the company to pay $105 million in damages for polluting New York City’s groundwater with a toxic gasoline additive.

The decision not to hear the case leaves intact a July 2 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the judgment.

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In 2009, a jury concluded that Exxon contaminated water supply wells when the additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), leaked from its underground storage tanks in the borough of Queens.

The appeals court rejected Exxon’s arguments that it was required to use the additive under the federal Clean Air Act. An oxygen-containing substance that is added to gasoline to promote more complete combustion and reduce air pollution, MTBE was one of several additives recommended by regulators to reduce emissions.

It has now largely been phased out of the U.S. fuel supply because of its danger to groundwater.

New York City claimed Exxon went ahead and used the chemical in the 1980s through the first half of the 2000s despite warnings from its own scientists and engineers that it could be harmful in areas that relied on groundwater for drinking.

MTBE has been identified as an animal carcinogen and a possible human carcinogen and causes water to smell foul and taste bad.

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The water wells in southeast Queens that were contaminated serve as a backup supply for the city’s drinking water when the reservoirs upstate go offline because of repairs or droughts.

The New York case was intended serve as a bellwether case to provide guidance for other MTBE complaints that have been brought around the country.

The case is Exxon Mobil v. City of New York, U.S. Supreme Court, 13-842.

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(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Will Dunham)

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2020 Election

Here are 3 winners and 3 losers from the 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate

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Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the other leading Democratic presidential primary candidates Wednesday night in the fieriest evening of the race so far.

His presence on the stage drew fire from the other candidates, but it also seemed to change the overall tone of the debate, with more attacks, counter-attacks, and passion than was generally seen earlier in the campaign.

Here’s a (necessarily subjective!) list of the winners and losers from the fray:

Winners

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — Warren hit her stride right as the debate started by attacking Bloomberg for his record on the mistreatment of women, racist policies, and his tax returns. She repeatedly came back to skewer the former mayor, making herself the biggest and most notable presence in the debate. But importantly, she also continuously brought the discussion back to the issues she cares about — like expanding health care, environmental justice,  and consumer protection — while getting in digs at the other candidates on the stage.

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Michael Bloomberg ‘lost everything’ in Las Vegas: MSNBC analyst

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Senior editor for "The Root," Jason Johnson, concluded that the biggest loser of the Democratic debate in Las Vegas Wednesday was Michael Bloomberg, but not merely because of his debate performance.

"The big new name was going to be Michael Bloomberg," he said. "This was probably the most expensive night in Vegas I've ever seen. He lost everything. This guy has spent $320 million. He had the opportunity to stand on stage, and appear to be an equal, and he looked bored. He looked disenchanted. He stumbled over obvious questions that anybody would have anticipated about sexual harassment and stop and frisk. I thought it was a bad night for him."

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Pro-immigration protesters interrupt Joe Biden’s closing statement at debate

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Former Vice President Joe Biden's closing statement was interrupted by protesters at Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate.

As Biden began his remarks, demonstrators began shouting about the Obama administration's record on deportations.

WATCH: Protesters interrupt the #DemDebate as the debate nears end. pic.twitter.com/TKCn6eIEsN

— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 20, 2020

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