DETROIT (CN) – Valero refineries sued the federal government to recover a portion of cleanup costs for toxic waste generated before and during World War II, when the government had extensive control over the refineries.
During World Wars I and II, several bills signed into law as well as executive orders from the president gave the government broad authority to commandeer refineries for the purpose of manufacturing war materials.
One of the most important products during wartime was petroleum that was specifically manufactured with a high octane for optimum performance, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Detroit federal court by four Valero entities. However, the powerful fuel also produced powerful waste.
“These construction projects, combined with other government allocation wand operations authority, led to the overhaul of facilities and allowed the government to configure day-to-day operations at refineries in a way that maximized production of prioritized products without making any corresponding modifications to waste management or pollution control,” the complaint states.
The Valero companies say they “supported the country in the war effort and were left with the responsibility of addressing contamination and incurring response costs.”
The lawsuit claims that, at the time, the War Production Board forbid Valero’s agents from implementing any projects related to pollution control, under the belief the moment called for a win-at-all-costs philosophy.
“The government effectively controlled the nation’s supply of crude oil and other resources during WWII,” the lawsuit states. “[It] exercised control over the refining industry in a way that specifically dictated the type and amount of wastes generated at each refinery, as well as the disposal of such waste. This level of control is sufficient to establish liability.”
Valero asks “for payment of all necessary costs of response, removal and/or remedial action costs, costs of abatement and liability incurred by plaintiffs as a result of any release or threatened release of hazardous substances at the sites.”
The refineries mentioned in the lawsuit are located in Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, California, Kansas and Illinois.
The four Valero entities – MPR Properties Company LLC, Valero Refining Company – Oklahoma, The Premcor Refining Group Inc. and Ultramar Inc. – are represented by Givonna Long with Kelley Drye & Warren in Chicago.