The fallout from a rash of old oil spills continued for Greka Energy last week as the Department of Justice, working on behalf of several state and federal regulatory agencies, filed a lawsuit on Friday alleging Greka’s violation of water quality laws during 21 separate spills in Santa Barbara County from 2005 through 2010. Specifically, the suit seeks just over $2.4 million for the feds to recoup response and cleanup costs as well as the possibility for millions more in civic penalties.
The lawsuit, whose plaintiffs include the Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Fish and Game, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, claims that when a series of Greka-owned storage tanks, pipelines, and overflow injection ponds failed in a variety of incidents and thus spilled crude and produced water into nearby creeks and seasonal streams, the terms of the Clean Water Act were violated. Moreover, the suit says that Greka, which now goes by the name HVI Cat Canyon Inc., didn’t have the proper spill-preparedness plans in place at 12 of its facilities. Besides seeking financial returns, the suit also aims to ensure Greka’s future compliance.
For its part, Greka spokesperson Mike Stoker blasted the accusations this week, saying that Greka, which recently agreed to pay the County of Santa Barbara $2 million in settlement fees for the bulk of the aforementioned incidents and spent some $70 million to meet the demands of various regulatory agencies, has already righted its wrongs. Further, Stoker indicated that the terms of the suit, which he says hinge on Greka’s supposed fouling of “navigable waterways,” is off base, as the creeks and streams impacted are too small to be considered under the Clean Water Act. “This lawsuit is about one thing,” said Stoker, “federal agencies that are attempting to overreach their jurisdiction.”