Chevron will pay record fines for oil spills in California

Chevron will pay record fines for oil spills in California

by Janet Wilson, The Desert Sun

This story was originally published by ProPublica.

Oil giant Chevron has agreed to pay a record-setting $13 million to two California agencies for past oil spills, but some of the company’s spills are ongoing.

The fines, announced Wednesday, come more than three years after an investigation by The Desert Sun and ProPublica found that oil companies are profiting from illegal spills and that oversight of the industry by California’s oil and gas division was lax.

At least one of Chevron’s spills is still running 21 years after it began in a Kern County oilfield, although a state spokesperson said it has been reduced by 98% “from its peak.” The amount spilled from the site, dubbed GS-5, is larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster.

The crude collected from GS-5 generated an estimated $11.6 million in just three years, The Desert Sun and ProPublica found. In fact, rather than stopping potentially deadly inland spills, known as surface expressions, oil companies have routinely tried to contain them with netting or pieces of metal and used more than 100 of them as unpermitted oil production sites in Kern and Santa Barbara counties.

This week’s announcement stopped short of saying GS-5 and other ongoing spills must be stopped, as required under state law. Instead, officials said the settlement “creates a framework for managing the spills with State oversight,” and “Chevron agrees to continue monitoring the site with Department of Conservation oversight.” No specific sites were named.

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