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FEDERAL JUDGE THROWS OUT TOSCO SLAPP SUIT
AGAINST CBE - ENVIRONMENTALISTS VINDICATED


COMMUNITIES FOR A BETTER ENVIRONMENT
NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: Feb. 1, 1999  For more information contact:
Denny Larson, Richard Drury (415) 243-8373

FEDERAL JUDGE THROWS OUT TOSCO SLAPP SUIT AGAINST CBE
ENVIRONMENTALISTS VINDICATED

Today Federal District Judge Dickran Tevrizian announced that he is
tossing out a lawsuit filed by oil giant Tosco Corporation against
California environmental health and justice group, Communities for a
Better Environment (CBE).  The court ruled on CBE’s motion to dismiss
against Tosco, in which CBE claimed that Tosco’s lawsuit was a Strategic

Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP).

SLAPP suits are intended to tie-up small non-profit organizations like CBE
in frivolous litigation for years to divert their attention away from
their real work of cleaning up the environment. Tosco is one of the

largest corporations in the nation ? 111 on the Fortune 500 list, and the
largest independent oil refiner in the nation.  Tosco’s suit was brought
after CBE sued the oil company in San Francisco for numerous environmental
violations.

The court dismissed Tosco’s lawsuit, ruling that the case had no
business being in federal court at all.  CBE successfully argued that
Tosco is a California Corporation, and that all of the claims involved
concerned only state, not federal issues. Tosco’s SLAPP suit contended
that CBE’s efforts to inform the public of the risks to the state’s
groundwater relating to the gasoline additive MTBE constituted
defamation.

This ruling vindicates CBE’s contention that that the only reason Tosco

filed its SLAPP suit in federal court was due to forum-shopping, stated

CBE Legal Director Richard Drury.  If Tosco had filed the case in state

court, the company would have been subject to the state’s strict
Anti-SLAPP law, which is designed to protect citizen groups from
precisely such abusive tactics, said Drury.  Under California’s
Anti-SLAPP law, citizen groups can get SLAPP suits thrown out early, and

can also recover their costs and fees from the corporation.  Because of

the Anti-SLAPP law, we believe that it is highly unlikely that Tosco
will re-file this case in state court, said Drury.

CBE is currently suing Tosco and other oil companies in state court in San
Francisco in an attempt to force the companies to clean-up MTBE
contamination throughout the state.  Tosco, and other California oil
companies starting putting the toxic chemical MTBE into gasoline in the
early 1990’s, allegedly to make cleaner burning gasoline.  However, the
suit alleges that the oil companies were aware at the time that MTBE

leaks out of underground gas tanks and into groundwater.  In addition to

the MTBE lawsuit, CBE has sued Tosco several other times over the past two
years for violating federal and state environmental laws, including a
federal court suit forcing Tosco to cut its illegal discharge of toxic

selenium into San Francisco Bay.

SLAPP suits are becoming increasingly common ? examples include the beef

industry suing Oprah Winfrey, the lettuce growers suing Ceasar Chavez, and
the apple growers suing the Natural Resources Defense Council, just to
name a few.  Today Tosco joins the list of companies that have learned
that it doesn’t pay to harass and intimidate public interest groups with
frivolous lawsuits, said Denny Larson of CBE.

CBE is a 20-year-old environmental health and justice organization with
20,000 members in California.  The group combines scientists, attorneys
and community organizers to empower communities impacted by toxic
pollution to win clean ups and community oversight rights.  CBE has
offices in San Francisco, Pittsburg, Los Angeles, and Huntington Park. CBE
was represented by the San Francisco Anti-SLAPP law firm, Altshuler,

Berzon, Nussbaum, Berzon & Rubin.

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