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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on March 22nd, 2011, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 12, Issue 2 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 12, Issue 2

Greka settles with county for $2 million


Years after a series of oil spills racked up numerous fines for Greka Oil and Gas—a result of violations of Santa Barbara County’s environmental regulations—it’s time for the company to pay the piper.

In a financial settlement signed March 16, Greka agreed to pay the county $2 million in 43 installments for the so-called Bell and Zaca spills in December 2007 and January 2008. The first installment, in the amount of $400,000, is due April 14, and Greka must pay the full balance within four years.

“With today’s settlement, Greka is being held accountable not only fiscally, but also in the requirement that they implement increased secondary containment to further mitigate the impact of future spills,” 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf said in a press release.

In addition to the payment, Greka has also agreed to build enhanced containment areas to trap over-spillage at its facilities within one year, which could cost the company an additional $300,000, according to Greka spokesman Mike Stoker.

Stoker, a former county supervisor, said the company believed it would’ve won the lawsuits brought forward by the county but wanted to put the matter in the past, rather than spend the next two to five years in litigation.

“Simply stated, we decided it was time to move on,” Stoker said in an e-mail. “This company has made an incredible turnaround, and it’s time to quit playing politics and let the company operate like any other oil and gas company in Santa Barbara County.”

According to Stoker, after the Bell and Zaca spills, Greka hired a new president and has invested $70 million over the last two years in infrastructure improvement, resulting in no out-of-containment spills or facility safety violations in 2010 or 2011. He contended county regulations were applied arbitrarily to Greka alone, and any other oil company would’ve also been fined if it had been held to the same standards.

In a press release, the county acknowledged Greka Oil has “significantly reduced” its spills since releasing about 150,000 gallons of oil in the Bell and Zaca spills. The county also announced the Santa Barbara County Superior Court will enforce the terms of the settlement until the balance is paid in full.

Weekly Poll
What do you think about a farmworker resource center in Santa Barbara County?

It's a great way to create a network of collaboration and reach people in need.
It's been needed in the county for a long time and should have been made earlier.
We don't have the funding now, but we should come up with ideas in the meantime.
We don't need it. There are plenty of resources readily available.

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