MONTPELIER, Vt. (Legal Newsline) - Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced a lawsuit on Thursday against more than two dozen gasoline refiners for allegedly causing widespread pollution of Vermont's groundwater with MTBE, a gasoline additive.
Sorrell's office filed the lawsuit against several companies, including ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell Oil. He has hired the private firms Baron & Budd, Weitz & Luxenberg and Pawa Law Group to pursue the litigation.
The lawsuit alleges the refiners promoted, marketed and distributed gasoline containing MTBE, despite knowing the risks MTBE posed to groundwater. The refiners also allegedly used MTBE as an additive even though they knew it was a hazardous product that would inevitably pollute Vermont's groundwater.
"We believe these companies knew years ago that MTBE was a uniquely bad actor in groundwater, and they ignored the risks and sold it anyway," Sorrell said. "This lawsuit is about holding them accountable and ensuring that they - and not Vermonters - pay to clean up our groundwater."
The suit alleges the refiners violated Vermont's Groundwater Protection Act.
"The Vermont legislature has declared what we all know, that the state's groundwater is a precious, finite, and invaluable resource, held in trust for future generations," Sorrell said. "I take that trust seriously, and this suit aims to ensure that funds are available to protect Vermont's groundwater, which provides so many Vermonters with their drinking water."
MTBE is now banned as a gasoline additive in Vermont. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources is overseeing ongoing remediation of past MTBE releases and continues to make new discoveries of wells contaminated with MTBE.
The state is seeking damages to deal with MTBE's long-term effects through investigation and remediation.
The full list of defendants is: Valero Refining-Texas LP, Valero Marketing and Supply Company, Valero Energy Corporation, Ultramar Energy Inc., TRMI-H LLC, Total Petrochemicals & Refining USA Inc., TMR Company, Sunoco Inc. (R&M), Shell Trading (US) Company, Shell Petroleum Inc., Shell Oil Products Company LLC, Shell Oil Company, PDV Midwest Refining LLC, Motiva Enterprises LLC, Mobil Corporation, Irving Oil Limited, Highlands Fuel Delivery LLC, Hess Corporation, ExxonMobil Oil Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Equilon Enterprises LLC, El Paso Merchant Energy-Petroleum Company, ConocoPhillips Company, Coastal Eagle Point Oil Company, CITGO Refining and Chemicals Company LP, CITGO Petroleum Corporation, Chevron U.S.A. Inc., BP Products North America Inc. and Atlantic Richfield Company.