CONCORD, N.H. (Legal Newsline) - New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster announced a lawsuit Tuesday against Shell Oil Company to resolve allegations that Shell should have been financially responsible for cleanup at Shell-owned sites.
The lawsuit, filed in Merrimack County Superior Court, alleges that in the past 25 years, the state's Oil Discharge and Disposal Cleanup Fund paid more than $2.4 million for cleanups at sites historically owned by Shell. The suit alleges Shell should have been financially responsible for the cleanup costs.
Shell Oil owned, operated and supplied facilities with underground storage tanks in New Hampshire between the 1930s and 1998. When Shell's underground storage tanks leaked, the company submitted claims to the ODD Fund. Subsequent owners of Shell facilities also submitted fund applications for pollution cleanup that occurred when Shell remained the owner, operator or supplier.
The lawsuit alleges that Shell never told the fund that the company had insurance coverage for the leaks or disclosed the existence of potential coverage. In addition to filing claims with the ODD Fund, Shell allegedly filed claims with its insurers and sued its insurers to establish coverage for all its underground storage facility leaks throughout the country. Shell allegedly recovered $414 million in settlements in this matter.
The suit alleges Shell engaged in unjust enrichment and fraud. Foster's lawsuit requests that the court find Shell liable and order Shell to return the money paid from the fund, in addition to paying interest, costs and other damages to New Hampshire.
In 1988, the state of New Hampshire established the ODD Fund to provide a source of funds for the cleanup of oil from underground and bulk storage tanks. The fund serves as excess insurance and reimburses tank owners for cleanup costs that exceed any available insurance coverage.