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States Accuse Companies of Improper Cleanup Payments

Colorado sealChevron, Exxon, ConocoPhillips and Sunoco have paid more than $105 million through state settlements in the past three years after they were accused of getting paid twice to deal with the same contamination cases, including leaks from underground fuel storage tanks.

The cases allege the companies were paid once by governments and again in secret by insurance companies, Reuters says. Some states say their governments were owed the insurance payments, since they covered the cost of cleanup. Colorado attorney general John Suthers says the companies defrauded the state.

But the companies did not admit wrongdoing. Exxon also said that when it was paid twice, it informed the states. Phillips 66, an arm of ConocoPhillips, said its insurance policies did not cover underground storage tank leaks.

The EPA says leaky steel tanks – which were often built for gas stations during the 1950s and 1960s – are the single largest threat to groundwater in the US.

Environmental engineer and former EPA staffer Thomas Schruben, along with lead lawyer Dennis Tantazis and a team of attorneys and investigators, sparked many of the cases by bringing evidence to state governments’ attention.  

The team is now involved in around 20 cases across the country.

Takeaway: States have brought a wave of cases against oil companies, accusing them of getting paid twice for the same environmental cleanups.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

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