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Ohio is suing BP for $33.3 million, saying it “double-dipped” by taking not only state money but also reimbursement from insurers to clean up spills from the hundreds of underground fuel tanks at service stations around the state.
State Attorney General Mike DeWine joined the Ohio Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Release Compensation Board to file the lawsuit on March 2. The Board was set up in 1989 to serve tank owners that lack insurance to cover the clean-up of a fuel spill.
The suit, filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, says BP didn’t disclose that it had insurance when it applied to the Board for compensation. As a result, it said, it received $33.3 million from the fund, even though it was also being reimbursed by its insurers.
“Our lawsuit alleges that BP knowingly and intentionally took more than $33 million that it was not eligible to accept,” DeWine said in a statement. “BP has to follow the same rules as other businesses and can’t engage in misconduct without consequence.”
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The lawsuit demands that BP return the money and pay unspecified damages.
According to the action, BP and companies that it later acquired have received more money from the Compensation Board than any other company since the agency was created. The complaint points to 2,651 claims filed by the company with the state, which led to the $33.4 million in payments. It also cited 905 additional claims worth $22.3 million that the state is still reviewing.
Other defendants in the suit are the companies acquired by BP during its tenure in Ohio. They include the Standard Oil Co., Standard Oil of Ohio (SOHIO), Amoco Oil and Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO).
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Because BP acquired these companies, the lawsuit said, the Houston-based US affiliate of the British-owned company enjoys “a historic presence” in Ohio that includes thousands of service stations and convenience stores that BP owned, leased, operated, branded and supplied. Each of them, the suit says, was equipped with an underground storage tank, or UST, the suit says.
“Virtually all of the USTs installed at these service stations and convenience stores were steel tanks with steel pipes,” the suit says, and most of them sprung leaks.
In an e-mail, BP spokesman Jason Ryan responded to the lawsuit by saying the company “acted at all times in good faith and believes its dealings with the Ohio state underground storage tank fund have been proper.”
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com