EPA Assumes Cleanup of Greka's Gato Ponds

Greka Oil and Gas, Inc. has failed to meet multiple clean-up deadlines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at its Gato Ponds lease. As a result, EPA has assumed control of a portion of clean-up activities at Gato Ponds, located at 6057 Palmer Road in Santa Maria, Calif., according to an Oct. 1 press release.

"This is the third time the EPA has had to take over clean-up activities because Greka failed to meet reasonable standards," said Daniel Meer, assistant director for the Emergency Response, Preparedness and Prevention Branch of the Superfund Division in the EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "We have given Greka Oil and Gas every opportunity to effectively conduct this cleanup under federal oversight, but they have failed to meet our deadlines. Efficient cleanup is especially important as we approach the rainy season."

EPA is taking over the most critical activities, and the federal government will then seek reimbursement of those costs from Greka.

The agency first assumed clean-up responsibilities from Greka in 2005 following the first Zaca lease spill. EPA stepped in again to assume cleanup from Greka earlier this year following their Bell lease spill because the company repeatedly failed to meet federal standards.

EPA ordered Greka to mitigate the hazards at Gato ponds due to their close proximity to Cat Canyon Creek. The ponds were leaking in multiple locations and posed an extreme hazard for a spill. There are several drainage pathways leading from Gato ponds to the riparian habitat next to the creek and then into the creek itself. The creek flows to the Santa Maria River, which flows to the Pacific Ocean. Downstream from the Gato Ponds, the creek is the home to threatened and endangered species.

EPA is taking this action because Greka Oil and Gas, Inc. violated the "Order for Removal, Mitigation, and Prevention of a Substantial Threat of Oil Discharge," Docket No. OPA 311-09-2008-0005. In a letter dated Aug. 7, 2008, EPA amended the order to include multiple deadlines for different stages of work. Greka has failed to meet these deadlines.

Greka may face fines and penalties pursuant to order, for the violations. The law allows for fines of up to $32,500 per day, for each violation.

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