Despite threats made earlier, Greka Energy Corporation has yet to sue the Santa Barbara County Fire Department following the end of its proposed response deadline yesterday afternoon.
On Feb. 1, Greka Senior Vice President and General Counsel Susan M. Whalen sent a five-page letter addressed to Fire Chief John M. Scherrei concerning what she alleged was the fire department’s “arbitrary, unreasonable and subjective approach to dealing with” the multinational corporation’s recent oil spills that amounted to over 140,00 gallons in two months. The letter threatened to file suit for damages of up to $100 million if the county did not respond by 5 p.m. yesterday.
In particular, the letter took issue to a “stop work order” delivered by the department. Whalen had stated that the conditions placed upon Greka were not only unusual and unfair, but impractical as well, since the county has never placed any similar sanctions at other facilities. Currently, Greka’s Bell Lease facility remains temporarily closed after 58,674 gallons of crude oil spilled into a nearby creek on Dec. 7. The SBCFD has mandated that a third party inspect the facility before it reopens. Greka has asserted that this request is nearly impossible to comply with as few third parties are willing to conduct the inspection.
Alleging further instances of “capricious” treatment, the letter said that the fire department’s sanctions against the corporation – which in the last five years has spilled more oil than the 11 other operators in the county combined – are in essence complete shut-down orders.
“Greka wants to work with SBCFD in good faith, but SBCFD has apparently been directed or has an independent position to shut Greka down,” Whalen said. “Such action, whatever the motivation, is not right.”
Santa Barbara County Communications Director William H. Boyer said officials from the county were in contact with Greka yesterday, although he said he did not believe the two parties had formally met to discuss the corporation’s issues yet.
“We have been contacting them today,” Boyer said. “I don’t believe a meeting has occurred. We’re still trying to get a time that works for everyone.”
Yesterday’s letter had called for the removal of various sanctions or the alternate option of demanding that a county administrator send a representative to mediate between SBCFD and Greka immediately.
Meanwhile, Greka has also pushed for further investigation into the spills claiming the company was victim to a deliberate sabotage.