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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Vermont Attorney General Files Suit Against MTBE Producers and Refiners to Protect Vermont Groundwater

June 5, 2014

CONTACT: Scot L. Kline, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-3186

June 5, 2014

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has filed suit against more than two dozen of the nation’s largest refiners of gasoline for causing widespread pollution of Vermont’s groundwater with the gasoline additive MTBE. “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,” said Attorney General William H. Sorrell. “This lawsuit is about holding them accountable and ensuring that they — and not Vermonters — pay to clean up our groundwater.”

The lawsuit , filed today in Washington Superior Court, alleges that the refiners promoted, marketed, and distributed gasoline containing MTBE despite knowing that MTBE posed unprecedented risks to groundwater. The refiners also allegedly used MTBE as an additive, despite their knowledge that MTBE is a hazardous product that would inevitably pollute Vermont’s groundwater. The suit asserts that the refiners failed to inform Vermont regulators, resellers, or consumers of the hazards MTBE posed, or of any means to handle MTBE gasoline to mitigate them.

Attorney General Sorrell’s lawsuit, based on those facts among others, states claims against the refiners for violations of Vermont’s Groundwater Protection Act, design defect, failure to warn, public and private nuisance, trespass, negligence, and civil conspiracy.

“The Vermont Legislature has declared what we all know,” Sorrell said, “that the State’s groundwater is a precious, finite, and invaluable resource, held in trust for future generations. 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, but the Agency of Natural Resources continues to oversee ongoing remediation of past MTBE releases and continues to discover new MTBE-contaminated wells to this day. The State is seeking damages so that the Agency — which is collaborating closely with the Attorney General’s Office in the suit — can deal with MTBE’s long-term effects through long-term investigation and remediation.

“The companies that profited from selling MTBE need to be held responsible for the resulting damage to our groundwater,” said Vermont Environmental Conservation Commissioner David Mears. “Vermont citizens deserve compensation so that we can invest in restoring this vital source of clean water.”

The national law firms of Baron & Budd, P.C., Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C., and Pawa Law Group, P.C. are assisting the Attorney General’s Office in the case.

Last modified: February 15, 2019