The following is a press release issued by the Office of California Attorney General Rob Bonta:
California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, along with the district attorneys of Alameda, Lake, Mendocino, Santa Clara, and Sonoma counties, announced a $1.7 million settlement with several owners and operators of gas stations resolving allegations that the defendants violated state environmental laws while operating above-ground and underground storage tank systems at 14 gas stations. The five defendants, Bay Area/Diablo Petroleum, Co. (dba Golden Gate Petroleum) Westgate Petroleum Co., Westgate Petroleum Company, Inc., Eastgate Petroleum LLC (dba Golden Gate Petroleum), and Dennis O’Keefe, own or operate gas stations around Northern California. An investigation found a recurring failure to properly maintain, install, implement, and operate various spill prevention and safety measures since at least 2013. Today’s settlement includes robust injunctive terms to improve the defendants’ operational safety and compliance with state laws to avoid potential contamination of soil and groundwater.
“Without proper safety measures in place, leaks from above-ground and underground storage tanks risk seeping into the ground and contaminating our drinking water,” said Attorney General Bonta. “We won’t let companies cut corners in their handling of hazardous waste. These defendants violated California’s environmental laws for years; now, they will go above and beyond to ensure that their operations do not threaten public health and the safety of our communities.”
“This resolution further ensures that ground water remains safe for the residents of Santa Clara County and the state as a whole,” said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.
Both above-ground and underground storage tank systems are subject to strict regulations in California because of the potential for even a small tank leak, if undetected, to cause substantial contamination to soil and groundwater. For example, California requires that all underground storage tank systems be designed and constructed with primary and secondary levels of containment, continuous monitoring systems, constant vacuum pressure, equipment to prevent spills and leaks, and automatic leak detectors.
In 2018, the Attorney General’s Office, along with several district attorneys, filed a civil complaint against defendants alleging violations of California state laws regulating the operation of above-ground and underground storage tanks and the handling of hazardous waste. Specifically, the Attorney General’s Office and district attorneys alleged 107 violations relating to the defendants’ failure to install and/or maintain leak monitoring and detection systems, and functioning spill containment systems; continuously monitor and conduct required testing of underground storage tank systems; properly label and containerize hazardous waste; and properly notify, and comply with directions from, local agencies regarding the release of a hazardous substances.
The settlement resolves these allegations. The settlement requires the defendants to pay $1.7 million in civil penalties and imposes more than a dozen injunctive terms, including employment of an environmental compliance coordinator and annual reporting requirements.
A copy of the settlement agreement is available here.