LAWFUEL – US Attorney Newswire – A Santa Maria oil refining company has been charged with violating the Safe Drinking Water Act for pumping refinery-generated wastewater into the ground, a practice that risks contaminating groundwater supplies. Two current and one former company employees have been charged with lying to investigators with the United States Environmental Protection Agency about the wastewater pumping.
The Santa Maria Refining Company, a subsidiary of Greka Energy Corporation, agreed in court documents filed this morning to plead guilty to violating the Safe Drinking Water Act by intentionally pumping contaminated wastewater into “injection wells” that are supposed to be used only to handle brine separated from crude oil prior to the refining process.
In its plea agreement, Santa Maria Refining acknowledged that it illegally injected wastewater generated during the refining process into wells that were not permitted for such use. Santa Maria Refining also admitted that one of its managers lied to the EPA in October 2004 in an effort to convince the EPA that the company was not injecting the wastewater into the ground for disposal purposes.
The three individual defendants have agreed to plead guilty to making false statements to the EPA in connection with the same illegal injection of wastewater into wells. Those defendants are:
Robert Thompson, 58, of Santa Maria;
Edward Stotler, 60, of Santa Maria; and
Brent Stromberg, 62, of Nipomo.
Thompson’s case was filed today, and charges against Stotler and Stromberg were filed yesterday.
All four defendants charged in this matter will be summoned to appear for arraignments in United States District Court in Los Angeles in the coming weeks.
Santa Maria Refining has agreed to pay a $1 million fine and to pay restitution to the EPA. The company is expected to be placed on probation for three years. Additionally, Santa Maria Refiing and Greka have agreed to abide by an independently audited environmental compliance program that will be in effect for three years.
The individual defendants each face statutory maximum sentences of five years in federal prison.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency – Criminal Investigative Division.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Dorothy Kim
Assistant United States Attorney David Willingham
Release No. 07-051