BALTIMORE, Md. (Legal Newsline) – On Feb. 14, Atlantic Richfield Co. filed a notice to remove a lawsuit against it and other petroleum manufacturers by the State of Maryland from the Baltimore Circuit Court to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
Maryland sued multiple gasoline manufacturers in December - including Shell, Chevron, and Exxon - for using a substance the state claims contaminated more than 400,000 public water wells.
Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is an additive that was originally used in gasoline to help with air pollution as it was purported to burn cleaner. Unlike other additives that stick to soil underground, MTBE is highly water soluble, spreading dangerously fast through groundwater, contaminating public and private drinking water wells, and can make water unfit for human consumption even in small doses, the complaint states.
Maryland alleged in its complaint that the companies named in the suit knew of the dangers MTBE could create and still produced and distributed it throughout the state. The complaint stated that the companies’ "wrongful conduct in adding MTBE to their gasoline, and their marketing, distribution, handling, storage and sale of MTBE gasoline in the state has created widespread contamination of the waters of the state, including many of the state's over 400,000 public and private drinking water wells."
This is just one of many lawsuits against the gasoline companies by various states for contaminating water wells by using MTBE in their products.
The state seeks to recover costs it's already paid and costs “incurred in the future, to detect, define the extent of, monitor, treat, abate, remove, remediate and cleanup MTBE contamination of waters of the state, including the costs to restore all MTBE-contaminated waters of the state to their precontaminated condition; (b) the costs paid or incurred to date, and to be paid or incurred in the future, to test, monitor, and treat the water from each and every public and private drinking and irrigation water well in the State so as to remove all MTBE from such water; (c) damages for injury to or destruction of the waters of the state from MTBE contamination, including the loss of use and diminution in value of waters of the state," in addition to punitive damages, interest and attorney’s costs, according to the complaint.
The state also requested an injunction that would require the defendants to investigate, test and treat for MTBE.
The defendants filed a notice to remove the case to Maryland federal court because the lawsuit falls into the requirements of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Energy Policy Act states that “Claims and legal actions filed after the date of enactment of this Act related to allegations involving actual or threatened contamination of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) may be removed to the appropriate United States district court.”
In the notice for removal, the defendants’ attorneys stated that “Removal is appropriate here pursuant to the Energy Policy Act because, as described in greater detail below, Plaintiffs claims relate to allegations involving actual or threatened methyl tertiary butyl ether ("MTBE") contamination.”
Maryland is represented by the attorney general for the State of Maryland.
The defendants are represented by William W. Carrier III and John B. Ibister of Tydings and Rosenberg LLP in Baltimore, Maryland.