Anadarko settles environmental pollution suit for $5.15 billion

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Anadarko Petroleum of Texas has agreed to a $5.15 billion settlement of a class action suit seeking it clean up dozens of sites it polluted for 85 years and compensate more than 7,000 injury claimants, according to Department of Justice (DOJ).

The DOJ, which announced the settlement Thursday, said the amount was the biggest environmental cash settlement in U.S. history and resolves the 2009 suit against Anadarko and its subsidiary Kerr-McGee by a litigation trust composed of the federal government represented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 11 states, the Navajo Nation, a trust for individual plaintiffs and some environmental response trusts.

The amount will provide nearly $1 billion to clean up drinking water contaminated by uranium mining operations in Navajo Nation and address health risks for the Native American region occupying portions of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico. About $1.1 billion will go to cleaning up a former chemical manufacturing site in Nevada that has led to pollution in Lake Mead.

More than $430 million will go to EPA to clean up New Jersey Superfund sites. The agency will also be reimbursed $217 million that was spent to address pollution caused by a wood treatment facility in Manville, New Jersey from 1910 to the 1950s. A total $4.5 million will be paid to New Jersey as compensation for the pollution of the area’s groundwater.

Other money will be spent to clean up sites in small towns and major urban centers.

DOJ’s Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said the settlement not only secured environmental justice but also fought fraud.

Kerr-McGee, an Oklahoma energy and chemical company, created a company, Tronox, in 2005 and transferred its chemical business and pollution liabilities to the latter. Anadarko, one of the country’s most successful oil and gas producers with interests in Africa, acquired Kerr-McGee’s oil and gas businesses for $18 billion three months after Tronox was formed.

Tronox went bankrupt in 2009 after spending as much as $126 million a year to clean up pollution left by Kerr-McGee from Mississippi to Pennsylvania. It sued Anadarko and Kerr-McGee for transferring their liabilities to the company. The EPA joined the suit arguing that corporate responsibility for the cleanup remains with Anadarko.

The government originally sought more than $20 billion from Anadarko to clean up more than 2,700 polluted sites and compensate more than 8,000 people claiming respiratory ailments, cancer and other diseases they suffered from exposure to chemical pollutants.

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