Martha Reclamation Program: Dump and Run

Toxic Soup: Ashland's Radioactive Sludge Pits

Toxic Soup: Radiation at Blaine Elementary School

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Legal Struggle: Let's Make a Deal

The village of Martha has had challenges in dealing with Ashland Oil to clean up the radioactive waste spread around the oil field.  These challenges have resulted in several lawsuits filed by residents against Ashland.  These lawsuits have been dragging through the courts for over a decade.  In a previous post, we discussed the Cantrell v. Ashland lawsuit and Ashland’s ridiculous legal position.  In this post we will discuss Rigsby v. Ashland and why we think it shows Ashland’s true intentions of saddling the property owners and the State of Kentucky with the cost of the cleanup of Ashland’s radioactive mess.

The plaintiffs in Rigsby v. Ashland sued Ashland in 1996 for trespass, nuisance and negligence claims related to the radioactive waste spread on their properties by Ashland’s oil production activities.  In 1997 the plaintiffs settled with Ashland; Ashland gave the plaintiffs an undisclosed sum of money and the promise to participate in the “Martha Reclamation Program.”  In return, the plaintiffs released Ashland of its liability.  The Martha Reclamation Program was the result of a 1995 agreement between the State of Kentucky and Ashland Oil in which Ashland agreed to remediate and restore property in the area including that owned by the plaintiffs.  So basically the plaintiffs agreed to waive Ashland’s liability for the radioactive pollution in exchange for money and an agreement by Ashland to clean up the mess.

All was well until 2007 when the plaintiffs hired an independent radiation officer to inspect their properties and hazardous levels of radioactive material were found, despite the properties obtaining a release from the State that they had been cleaned up by Ashland.  The plaintiffs sued Ashland seeking performance of the remediation and additional compensation.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals sided with Ashland.  The Court basically said that the plaintiffs signed an agreement to relieve Ashland of its liability, received money in return, and if they have issues with the quality of the radiation cleanup they should address the State of Kentucky, not Ashland.  So it appears in this case that Ashland gets to pass any additional costs incurred to appropriately clean up the properties to the landowners and/or the taxpayers of Kentucky.

Is it any wonder that other plaintiffs might be hesitant to settle their lawsuits with Ashland?

Ashland, do the right thing and clean up your mess!

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