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Pennsylvania sues ExxonMobil, Chevron, others over gasoline additive

06.20.2014  | 

ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Citgo were among companies named in two complaints by the state of Pennsylvania seeking damages for costs to clean up groundwater tainted by MTBE.



ExxonMobil and Chevron were among oil companies sued by Pennsylvania for polluting groundwater with a gasoline additive in a lawsuit similar to cases brought by New York City, New Hampshire and Vermont.

BP and Citgo, the Houston-based unit of Venezuela’s state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA, also were named in two complaints made public Friday in state court that seek damages for costs to clean up groundwater tainted by Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether, or MTBE.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Governor Tom Corbett’s office of general counsel filed the complaints.

“MTBE-related spills over the past 20 years have cost Pennsylvania hundreds of millions of dollars,” James Schultz, the governor’s general counsel, said in a statement. “We cannot take the health of Pennsylvania’s waters for granted and their protection must remain our utmost priority.”

The Pennsylvania lawsuits follow scores of claims filed by cities, states and individuals around the US against oil refiners, retailers and distributors over MTBE. ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP were among two dozen US refiners sued this month by Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell.

The US Supreme Court in April upheld a jury’s $104.7 million damage award against Irving, Texas-based ExxonMobil for contaminating New York City wells with the additive.

Clean Air

The city sued oil companies in 2003, alleging they knew the additive would pollute groundwater. ExxonMobil argued that state laws were pre-empted by the federal Clean Air Act, which required oil companies to reformulate gasoline to reduce air pollution from vehicle emissions. Oil companies added MTBE to make it burn more efficiently.

Reasonable alternatives to MTBE were available at the time oil companies jointly promoted gasoline with the additive, Pennsylvania claims in its lawsuit.

Braden Reddall, a spokesman for San Ramon, California-based Chevron, said the company hadn’t yet seen the suit and couldn’t comment. Scott Dean, a spokesman for London-based BP in Houston, had no immediate comment.

ExxonMobil spokeswomen Ellen Sublett and Devan Dal Col didn’t return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit. Fernando Garay, a Citgo spokesman, didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

Pennsylvania wants the companies held liable for manufacturing a defective product, creating public nuisances and negligence. The complaint also seeks punitive damages for “wanton, malicious, oppressive and fraudulent conduct,” according to the filing.

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Sourena Mahdavi

MTBE is bad, MMT is bad....so what the refineries should use to increase the octane? not all the refiners are equipped with the isomerization and CCR units.

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