In light of a substantial oil spill in the Santa Ynez Valley last weekend – the second major leak in a month from the corporation responsible – the Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it is currently investigating Greka Energy Corp.’s other facilities in the area.
The EPA and the California Dept. of Fish and Game arrived at the scene of the Jan. 5 spill shortly after it was discovered early Saturday morning in order to coordinate the clean up effort, EPA spokeswoman Mary Simms said. However, due to an alarm failure, the spill was not discovered for a full 13 hours, allowing at least 84,000 gallons of crude oil to seep into the ground and flow down a seasonal creek.
In response to the recent leak, as well as the company’s history of violations, which include three major spills in the last two years, Daniel Meer, the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Superfund Division Response, Planning and Assessment Branch chief, said that the agency will do everything in its power to bring Greka Energy into compliance.
“We have significant concerns whenever a company has repeated releases of oil to the environment and this is the second major release from a Greka Energy facility since December 2007,” Meers said. “We will use all available tools under the Clean Water Act to ensure that this company is brought into compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.”
Although Simms said the EPA has not yet determined what measures to take, Greka Energy has already sought legal representation. Speaking through attorney Robert Sanger, who recently represented UCSB student Eric Frimpong in a rape trial last month and was part of Michael Jackson’s defense team in 2005, the corporation claimed that it had spent tens of millions of dollars in facility improvements in the region.
Additionally, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will discuss the fate of Greka Energy at a meeting on Jan. 15. Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone will abstain from the discussion, as the leak occurred on land that his family leases out.
Currently, employees of Greka, the EPA and the Fish and Game Dept. are still removing contaminated soil and vegetation from a previous oil spill that occurred on Dec. 7 at the Greka-Palmer Road, Bell Lease facility. According to Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. spokesman Capt. Eli Iskow, workers will send the contaminated roughage to the Kettleman Hills Hazardous Waste Facility in Kings County for weighing in order to determine the oil content of the material. Thus far, officials have estimated that last month’s spill resulted in the release of 58,674 gallons of oil.