Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Feds take over Greka cleanup operation


Federal Environmental Protection Agency officials took over cleanup operations at a Greka Energy facility after they said the oil company failed to act quickly enough to clean up a crude oil and polluted water spill.
On January 29, approximately 200 barrels of crude oil and polluted water spewed from a broken underground pipe at the Bell Lease, 6801 Palmer Rd., according to statements from the oil company and county fire officials, and traveled three-quarters of a mile down a creek bed.
Authorities said Greka violated a cleanup order issued by the EPA by failing to remove oil and soil contaminated by the spill in an expeditious fashion.

“The EPA is stepping in to prevent further harm to the environment,” Daniel Meer, chief of the response, planning and assessment branch of the EPA’s Superfund Division, said in a prepared statement. “We have given Greka Oil and Gas every opportunity to properly conduct this cleanup under federal oversight, but they have failed.”
Greka officials disputed the EPA’s claims that they violated the cleanup order, calling those statements “inaccurate, misleading and incomplete.”
“It has always been Greka’s plan to clean up the Bell Lease site as efficiently and quickly as practical,” according to a statement from the oil company.
Greka representatives argued that they replaced their original cleanup contractor with one of the leading hazardous waste management companies in Southern California. They said the EPA rejected a health and safety plan submitted by the cleanup company after requesting “a volume of questions and requirements unlike anything they had seen before in their many years of experience with regulatory bodies.”
“The bottom line: EPA’s hasty actions have prevented Greka from quickly and efficiently completing the cleanup,” Greka officials said.
Federal officials will seek reimbursement of cleanup costs they incur while working on the Bell Lease spill from Greka.
Also at issue are documents required pursuant to the cleanup order, including work plans addressing the cause of the spill and showing how the company plans to prevent future spills. EPA officials said the plans were required by February 28 and Greka has yet to submit them. The oil company disputes that charge, arguing they did submit the plans.
“The statute allows for fines of up to $32,500 per day, for each violation,” according to a statement from the EPA. “Greka may face fines and penalties pursuant to order, for the violations.”
Federal authorities also said Greka postponed the submission of a work plan required yesterday outlining the removal of oil and solids from the facility’s wastewater ponds.
Greka representatives said they requested additional time to conduct “considerable research to determine the most efficient and cost effective method to remove and dispose of the waste material.”

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