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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Anadarko Settlement Won’t Bend to Critics

MANHATTAN (CN) - In a Southern preacher's battle over how to divvy up a $5.2 billion environmental settlement against Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Goliath trounced David, to paraphrase the preacher's lawyer.

Federal prosecutors announced the recordbreaking settlement against the oil company on behalf of the Navajo Nation earlier this year, and promised that the vast majority of the funds would go toward a "colossal" cleanup 85 years in the making.

But two claimants from the city of Columbus, Miss. - Anita Gregory, a former resident, and Maranatha Faith Center, a Pentecostal congregation - tried to throw a wrench in the deal.

Both complained that Anadarko's now-shuttered subsidiary Kerr-McGee Corp. wreaked disproportionate havoc on their city of approximately 24,000 people, where the company ran a plant that produced creosote, a toxic wood preservative.

Gregory said the chemical sterilized one of her sisters and gave the other cancer. And Maranatha Faith Center's Reverend Steven Jamison told Bloomberg News that the contamination damaged his liver.

They demanded a higher settlement, and insisted that their city deserved more than the 12 percent of the final bounty.

Maranatha's lawyer Hal McClanahan reportedly waxed Biblical about the fight before a bankruptcy judge earlier this year.

"I think I know how David felt when he was standing in that valley before Goliath," the lawyer told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper in May, according to Forbes.

But Gropper ultimately ruled in favor of the government in findings that a federal judge confirmed on Monday.

While declaring herself "sympathetic" to the claimants, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest tossed their objections.

"The law does not require a defendant to completely empty its pockets before a settlement may be approved; indeed, if it did, it is hard to imagine why a defendant would ever settle a case," her opinion states.

Citing Gropper's conclusions, Forrest noted that the vast majority of pollution victims were satisfied with the deal.

"Although the settlement concerns over 1,880 contaminated sites all across the country, only two parties have filed objections to it," the opinion states. (Citation omitted)

The plan for using the settlement money is set in stone at this point, the judge added.

Forrest explained that she "cannot now change how the net proceeds of this litigation will be allocated, because these allocations were confirmed by the bankruptcy court in the plan and thus became final and nonappealable years ago."

Adopting the bankruptcy court's findings, she approved the settlement and consent decree on Monday.

The preacher's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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