The state is suing more than two dozen national gasoline refiners over the use of a fuel additive called MTBE.
The Vermont Attorney General’s office says the companies used the additive in spite of known risks of groundwater contamination and they failed to inform regulators, resellers and consumers.
MTBE was used beginning in the 1980s to reduce emissions.
Vermont banned it in 2005 because of concerns over leaking storage tanks and MTBE’s ability to dissolve in water and contaminate wells.
Assistant Attorney General Scot Kline says recent successful MTBE lawsuits prompted the state to take action against refiners now.
“This type of litigation has been going on across the nation for some number of years. There have been some developments in the last year or two that led us to believe that we could bring this suit and this was the time to do so,” Kline says.
Last year a New Hampshire jury found Exxon Mobil liable for MTBE contamination and the company was ordered to pay $236 million. The verdict is being appealed.