A Santa Barbara County Fire representative demonstrates the recent incident at Greka's Palmer Road plant.
Hearing Examines Greka Woes
Oil Company Spokesman Says Sabotage Caused Spills
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Things went from bad to worse for Greka Energy this past weekend, as yet another pump failure-this time at a storage tank in the Santa Ynez Valley-sent some 84,000 gallons of oil and the toxic byproduct known as produced water spewing into a creek at the Firestone Vineyard property on January 5. Made worse by the recent heavy rainfall, the spill, according to California Fish and Game, traveled more than a mile and a half downstream before being stopped by Greka workers and County Fire crews. The spill came less than 24 hours after a special meeting of county, state, and federal officials in Santa Barbara, hosted by State Assemblymember Pedro Nava, to discuss the recurring toxic spills since Greka came to town in 1999. According to county and state data, the most recent incident brings the total number of Greka spills in the past nine years to 204, including approximately 100,000 gallons of oil spilled into creeks in the past month alone. Furthermore, amid allegations of widespread disrepair and high environmental risk, Greka’s Rincon Island facility just offshore the Santa Barbara/Ventura county line was issued a stop work order by the state’s Land Commission on January 3.
By Paul Wellman
Assemblymember Pedro Nava at a hearing on Greka’s oil spills.
With a history of infractions-including a massive December 7 spill at a storage facility near Santa Maria that was recently estimated by California Fish and Game officials to have put 58,674 gallons, or 1,397 barrels, of crude oil in a tributary of the Sisquoc River-representatives from County Fire, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, California Fish and Game, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Department of Conservation gathered on January 4 at the Santa Barbara City Planning building to compare notes on their respective Greka dealings. Representatives painted a grim picture of the Greka track record, telling tales of broken-down machinery, twigs wrapped in socks used to stuff holes in holding tanks, felony criminal litigation, and well over a million dollars’ worth of fines. Steve Edinger, the chief of enforcement for Fish and Game, called the sheer volume of documented spills “extraordinary and well outside the norm” compared to the rest of state, adding, “Often, we would go out on one Greka event and find out another event is going on, too. : It’s good business practice to not spill, and other operators seem to get this message.” For the county’s part, Air Pollution Control District Director Terry Dressler called Greka “the most challenging source we regulate.” County Fire’s Tom Franklin, holding up a thick folder of violation paper work, said that of the 20 onshore oil operators in the county, “It is Greka that takes up our time and resources.”
By Paul Wellman
The David Gebhard Public meeting room was filled beyond capacity with a majority of Gerka employees causing the fire marshall to clear more than 20 people without seats standing in the isles.
Attorney Robert Sanger speaking on behalf of Greka Energy.