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Santa Maria-based oil company must pay $65M over oil spills

California Oil Spill
Posted at 9:05 AM, Mar 07, 2023

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — A defunct company that spilled more than a million gallons of crude oil and wastewater in California must pay more than $65 million in penalties and cleanup costs, federal prosecutors announced Monday.

A federal court entered a final judgment last week against HVI Cat Canyon Inc., formerly known as Greka Oil & Gas Inc., a U.S. Department of Justice statement said.

The federal government and the state of California had sued the company, alleging that it was negligent and responsible for repeated crude oil spills into U.S. and state waterways along the central coast from ruptured storage tanks, corroded pipelines and overflowing injection ponds.

The judgment finalizes a Feb. 25 ruling by a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The judge found the company liable for 12 spills into federal waterways from 2005 through 2010 that dumped 26,584 barrels (about 1.1 million gallons) (4.2 million liters) of crude oil and wastewater.

“The spills evinced a pattern of reckless disregard for good oilfield industry practices, and a series of negligent acts or omissions by HVI concerning oil spill prevention, and pipeline and facility inspection and maintenance,” the judge wrote.

The firm also committed 60 violations of federal regulations at 11 facilities amounting to nearly 87,000 days of violation, the ruling held.

HVI Cat Canyon was held liable to the United States for $57.5 million in civil penalties and cleanup costs, along with $7.7 million to California in penalties in addition to nearly $200,000 for damage to natural resources and for cleanup costs.

The Santa Maria-based company, which owned and operated facilities in Santa Barbara County, filed for bankruptcy in 2019 and a spokesperson couldn’t immediately be found.

A message left for an attorney who at one point represented the firm wasn’t immediately returned.

However, when the lawsuit was filed in 2011, then-company president Andrew deVegvar told the Los Angeles Times that most of the spills were minor and none caused harm to the environment. He also said the company fully complied with federal regulations.