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For Immediate Release
District Attorney Announces $1.7 Million Consent Judgment with Five Gas Station Owners and Operators for Environmental Violations at Northern California Gas Stations
SANTA ROSA, CA | March 06, 2023
Sonoma County District Attorney Carla Rodriguez, along with the California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the District Attorneys of Alameda, Lake, Mendocino, and Santa Clara counties, have announced a $1.7 million settlement with several owners and operators of gas stations resolving allegations that the defendants violated state environmental laws while operating above ground and underground storage tank systems at 14 gas stations. The five defendants, Bay Area/Diablo Petroleum, Co. (dba Golden Gate Petroleum) Westgate Petroleum Co., Westgate Petroleum Company, Inc., Eastgate Petroleum LLC (dba Golden Gate Petroleum), and Dennis O’Keefe, own or operate gas stations around Northern California. An investigation found a recurring failure to properly maintain, install, implement, and operate various spill prevention and safety measures since at least 2013. Today’s settlement includes robust injunctive terms to improve the defendants’ operational safety and compliance with state laws to avoid potential contamination of soil and groundwater.
District Attorney Carla Rodriguez stated, “This enforcement action informs businesses in Sonoma County and other counties that they must comply with the environmental regulations in place in this state in order to protect our limited resources, and that failure to comply will not be taken lightly.”
Both above ground and underground storage tank systems are subject to strict regulations in California because of the potential for even a small tank leak, if undetected, to cause substantial contamination to soil and groundwater. For example, California requires that all underground storage tank systems be designed and constructed with primary and secondary levels of containment, continuous monitoring systems, constant vacuum pressure, equipment to prevent spills and leaks, and automatic leak detectors.
In 2018, the Attorney General's Office, along with several District Attorneys, filed a civil complaint against defendants alleging violations of California state laws regulating the operation of above ground and underground storage tanks and the handling of hazardous waste. Specifically, the Attorney General's Office and District Attorneys alleged 107 violations relating to the defendants’ failure to install and/or maintain leak monitoring and detection systems and functioning spill containment systems; continuously monitor and conduct required testing of underground storage tank systems; properly label and containerize hazardous waste; and properly notify and comply with directions from local agencies regarding the release of hazardous substances.
Today’s settlement resolves these allegations. The settlement requires the defendants to pay $1.7 million in civil penalties and imposes more than dozens of injunctive terms, including employment of an environmental compliance coordinator and annual reporting requirements.
In Sonoma County, there were two gas stations at issue that were operated by the defendants in Cloverdale at the commencement of the case. One of those stations subsequently closed. This case was handled by Deputy District Attorney Caroline Fowler in the Sonoma County District Attorney Environmental and Consumer Law Division.
Media Spokesperson, Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell
Media Coordinator, Carrie Trevena