Shell and Premcor settle Hartford vapor claims for $16 million

Steve Korris Apr. 24, 2008, 4:45am

For $16 million, Shell Oil and Premcor Refining Group have arranged to settle all claims that their refinery operations polluted the village of Hartford.

Shell and Premcor reached agreement April 3 with two teams of attorneys who had previously battled for the right to represent local residents.

Mark Goldenberg of Edwardsville leads one team and Teresa Woody of Kansas City, Mo. leads the other.

If Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack approves the settlement, the legal teams would evenly divide a $5,333,333 fee.

In the settlement agreement Goldenberg and Woody conceded "the possibility that the Hartford litigation, if not settled now, may not result in any recovery whatsoever for the settlement class or result in a recovery which is not as good as the settlement for settlement class members, and would not occur for several years."

Shell and Premcor conceded nothing, denying all allegations and insisting that "each has limited involvement in the matters alleged."

In separate suits Goldenberg and Woody blame refinery operations for an underground lake of petroleum that releases unhealthy vapors with every rainfall.

Settlement would not end the litigation, for Goldenberg and Woody still pursue claims against BP Products North America, Sinclair Oil, Atlantic Richfield and Apex Oil.

The settlement calls for $8.5 million from Shell and $7.5 million from Premcor.

Premcor would also join the plaintiff team, providing scientific information "for use in litigation involving non-settling parties," according to a joint settlement memorandum.

Anyone who has lived in Hartford since 1984 or owned property in the village since then would qualify for payments.

Those on the north side of the village would take the lion's share
of the cash.

The biggest chunk of the settlement fund, about $6.2 million, would compensate class members for displacement, loss of enjoyment and loss of use.

Displacement payments would run $250 a week for individuals and $500 for businesses, to a maximum of $5,000.

No one could collect more than $5,000 for displacement.

About $3.4 million would compensate property owners for damages and loss of value.

One million dollars would compensate individuals for medical expenses.

The parties separately moved to appoint former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Phillip Rarick as guardian ad litem for minor children in the settlement class.

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