Greka Oil & Gas of Santa Maria just got slammed with a $12.5 million fine from the state conservation department’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) for 1,500 operating violations at an oil field located in Orange County. It was the highest fine ever levied in DOGGR history. Among other things, DOGGR accused Greka of falsifying records in at least 350 reports. Citing Greka’s longstanding history of abuses — most of which took place in the Santa Maria area — DOGGR also denied company requests to drill a new injection well.
In recent weeks, Greka was also hit with a $2.1 million penalty by the Environmental Protection Agency for cleanup costs associated with the company’s Santa Maria facilities. At one point, criminal charges had been contemplated against Greka, but a private investigator hired by the company provided evidence that some of the company’s problems were the result of industrial sabotage caused by a terminated supervisor.
During the height of its troubles — about 10 years ago — Greka hired former county supervisor Mike Stoker to provide political advice and function as company spokesperson. Stoker has since been appointed director of federal EPA’s western regional offices overseeing 700 employees. Stoker has stated he sought to change the corporate culture at Greka to make it more environmentally compliant. While the number and severity of the company’s violations have dropped in Santa Maria, Greka was consistently among the county’s biggest and most frequent offenders, according to county records tracking such matters from 2013 to 2017.
Greka did not return multiple calls for comment. According to DOGGR, the company has filed an appeal of the $12.5 million penalty. That appeal will likely be heard this fall.