Shell, Equilon file for removal of benzene case to federal court

By Christina Stueve | May 10, 2012

Schrempf Defendants Shell Oil Co. and Equilon Enterprises filed May 1 to move their case to federal court.


Defendants Shell Oil Co. and Equilon Enterprises filed May 1 to move their case to federal court.

The lawsuit was filed against them March 20 by the Village of Roxana.

Shell Oil and Equilon Enterprises describe the case as an "environmental action" in their notice of removal.

The plaintiff seeks compensation for environmental pollution allegedly caused by the defendants' operating a refinery in Roxana since 1918.

The plaintiff claims the defendants released benzene, volatile organic compounds and other hydrocarbons into the water, land and air over the last 90 years, according to attorneys Richard Korn and Bart Sullivan of St. Louis.

Korn and Sullivan wrote the case can be moved to federal court, since it concerns citizens of different states, and exceeds $75,000.

Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis had assigned Circuit Judge David Hylla to the case, who recused himself March 27. She then reassigned the case to Associate Judge Thomas Chapman.

The Village of Roxana claims it lost tax revenues and says its residents' health is in danger after a variety of oil refineries allegedly contaminated the town's property and water.

Roxana filed suit March 20 in Madison County Circuit Court against Shell Oil Co., Equilon Enterprises, ConocoPhillips Co., WRB Refining, ConocoPhillips WRB Partners and Cenovus GPCO.

In its complaint, the village claims residents were exposed to benzene, which may cause cancer, causing the town to decrease in value.

The oil refineries have refined oil since 1918. The refineries started leaking in the 1980s, the complaint says.

"Defendants' releases and spills of petroleum products from leaking pipes and storage tanks, transfer of product, equipment failures, and fires contaminated and continue to contaminate the ground of the Village," the suit states.

So much benzene was released into the soil that soil vapor sampling detected levels in the Public Works Yard at levels more than 14,000 times the legal limit, according to the complaint.

Benzene and other chemicals made their way to surface waters through a running water drainage ditch along Old Edwardsville Road and Illinois Route 111. The ditch is near the Roxanna Water Treatment Facility, the suit states.

Roxana alleges trespass, public nuisance, private nuisance and unjust enrichment against the defendants.

The village of Roxana is represented by James E. Schrempf of Schrempf Kelly Nap & Darr in Alton; Derek Y. Brandt, G. Michael Stewart and Jo Anna Pollock of Simmons, Browder, Gianaris, Angelides and Barnerd in Alton; Melissa K. Sims of Melissa K. Sims Law Office in Peru. Paul J. Hanly Jr., Jayne Conroy and Andrea Bierstein of Hanly, Conroy, Bierstein, Sheridan, Fisher and Hayes in New York are serving of counsel.

Defense attorneys Richard Korn and Bart Sullivan are from the firm Fox Galvin in St. Louis. Ryan Mohr also is from Fox Galvin.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 12-L-357

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