Sues Major Oil Companies for Environmental Damage Inflicted on Pennsylvania’s
Also Target Misuse of the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund
Harrisburg – Attorneys representing the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania filed separate lawsuits in the Philadelphia Court
of Common Pleas today, seeking relief for the widespread pollution and harm
done to Pennsylvania’s waters caused by gasoline containing the additive known
as MTBE, and reimbursement for misuse of the Pennsylvania Underground Storage
Tank Indemnification Fund (USTIF).
tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a chemical additive that oil companies
manufactured and used in gasoline, was distributed and sold throughout
Pennsylvania beginning in the 1970’s. It was phased out as a gasoline additive
in Pennsylvania in 2005.
first suit, filed by Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Governor Tom Corbett’s
General Counsel James Schultz, seeks to recover millions of dollars paid by the
Commonwealth to clean up MTBE groundwater pollution. The lawsuit also
seeks monetary damages for the loss of groundwater use and damages for the
water resources of the Commonwealth, as well as injunctive relief, fines and
penalties relating to unfair and deceptive trade practices and marketing of
MTBE and MTBE gasoline.
we entrust the Commonwealth to the hands of others we expect that they will
care for it as we do, however, when companies pollute something so precious as
our water this cannot and will not be overlooked,” said Attorney General Kane.
spills over the past twenty years have cost Pennsylvania hundreds of millions
of dollars,” said General Counsel Schultz. “We cannot take the health of
Pennsylvania’s waters for granted and their protection must remain our utmost
1994, more than 3,000 gasoline releases have occurred from underground storage
tanks at gas stations and other petroleum facilities located in every
Pennsylvania county. Over 75 percent of these spills and leaks involved MTBE
gasoline, which is substantially more difficult to clean up than MTBE-free
lawsuit alleges that the oil companies knew of MTBE’s unprecedented risk to
groundwater, but nevertheless used it as an additive in gasoline sold in
Pennsylvania. It also details how MTBE is more persistent and mobile in
groundwater, which increases the size, complexity, duration and cost of MTBE
gasoline clean-ups, many of which continue to this day. Minute amounts of MTBE
render water non-potable due to foul and putrid smell and taste.
number of other states and governmental bodies are suing or have sued oil
companies for MTBE groundwater pollution, with substantial recoveries achieved.
second lawsuit filed by Attorney General Kane and General Counsel Schultz seeks
reimbursement of funds, initially disbursed by USTIF to 36 named defendants, to
clean up gasoline spills, regardless of whether they were MTBE related or not.
USTIF lawsuit alleges that, the defendants had numerous releases prior to 1994
which were ineligible for reimbursement from the USTIF and that the defendants
collected in excess of one billion dollars under their commercial, captive and
mutual insurance policies for the same corrective action costs covered by the
USTIF lawsuit further asserts that the defendants chose to not disclose what
they knew about the pre-1994 releases and that they failed to inform the
Commonwealth about their insurance recoveries. The Commonwealth alleges
that these “double-dip” USTIF payments are prohibited by law and that the oil
companies must disgorge the payments.
Joshua M. Maus, Office of General Counsel, 717.346.4463;
Carolyn E. Myers, Office of Attorney