Hartford vapor players searching for harmony

Steve Korris Jan. 4, 2007, 7:49am

Mark Goldenberg

Attorneys who have battled for months over the right to represent residents of Hartford in class actions over refinery vapors keep trying to settle their differences.

At a Dec. 13 hearing before Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack, Edwardsville attorney Mark Goldenberg said, "Everybody is working very hard in this case, judge, to try and get it resolved."

Goldenberg's firm has reached a settlement agreement with refinery owner Premcor Refining Group and Shell subsidiary Equilon, but a team of attorneys in Missouri keeps pursuing a separate action against Premcor, Equilon and other oil companies.

Goldenberg said the attorneys will see if they can all get on the same boat.

He said, "If we can't, we are going to have some motions with them that we will have to have set, argued and heard."

Plaintiffs in both suits claim that over many years refinery owners and petroleum transporters caused a lake of petroleum to form under Hartford.

Plaintiffs claim rain pushes petroleum vapors into homes and businesses, damaging the value of property and the quality of life in Hartford.

Stack conditionally certified Goldenberg's settlement as a class action last year.

Clients of the Missouri attorneys moved to intervene in Goldenberg's settlement. Stack granted intervention.

BP Products North America and Atlantic Richfield also moved to intervene, arguing that Goldenberg's settlement could affect their liability in the other suit.

Stack granted the motion at his Dec. 13 hearing.

Fifty Hartford residents have opted out of Goldenber's settlement, preferring to rely on the Missouri attorneys.

Those who opted out could rejoin Goldenberg's settlement if he and the Missouri attorneys end their dispute.

Stack said, "If this proceeds the way it hopefully can, a lot of
those people might want to be a part of this. They might want to be let back in."

Teresa Woody of the Missouri team asked Stack to extend the deadline for opting out. Stack said he saw no reason to move the date.

Stack plans a fairness hearing March 13.

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