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Kansas High Court Sides with BP in Town Clean-up Dispute

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Common Dreams staff

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday sided with oil giant BP against a citizen lawsuit that hoped to hold the company accountable for toxic pollution left behind from a refinery operation that closed more than three decades ago.

In one of the longest trials in state history, residents of Neodesha, Kansas had sued BP for "groundwater pollution under 350 acres of land – including almost 70 percent of the town and land underneath City Hall, hundreds of homes and the community's schools. The lawsuit contended the operation of the oil refinery and associated labs and storage facilities generated a variety of poisonous wastes and metals."

The jury in that original trial sided with BP, but the judge subsequently overturned that verdict. As the Associated Press explains: "In 2008, Allen County District Judge Daniel Creitz said that strict liability for the contamination was not a question of fact for the jury to decide but a question of law – and that Neodesha, located in rural southeastern Kansas, was entitled to judgment in its favor."

The Supreme Court's decision said Creitz was wrong to overturn the jury verdict, and thus reinstated its determination.

Rochelle Chronister, a Neodesha resident and former state legislator who attended most of the trial, wrote in an email to the Kansas City Star, “Looks like we lost big time!”

BP, however, was thrilled with the court's decision, saying “the proper verdict” had been reached.

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