Oil Company to Pay $1 Million Fine for Wastewater Violations

A Santa Maria, Calif., oil company and three employees pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the illegal disposal of wastewater.

The Santa Maria Refining Co., a subsidiary of Greka Energy Corp., was charged with intentionally pumping contaminated wastewater into "injection wells" that that were not permitted for such use. Federal officials said that the illegal disposal risks the contamination of groundwater and violates the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Santa Maria Refining agreed to pay a $1 million fine and restitution to EPA, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California announced on April 12. The company is expected to be placed on probation for three years. Additionally, Santa Maria Refining and Greka agreed to abide by an independently audited environmental-compliance program that will be in effect for three years.

In its plea agreement, Santa Maria Refining also admitted that one of its managers lied to EPA in October 2004 in an effort to convince the agency that the company was not injecting the wastewater into the ground for disposal purposes.

The employees named in the charges, Robert Thompson, Edward Stotler and Brent Stromberg, agreed to plead guilty to making false statements to EPA in connection with the illegal injection of wastewater. Each defendant faces statutory maximum sentences of five years in federal prison.

For more information, contact the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/cac/index.html.

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