Attorney General Sues BP over ARCO Gas Station Storage Tank Violations

Friday, February 08, 2013
Tanker driver delivers gasoline at an ARCO gas station. (photo: Associated Press)

Last month California Attorney General Kamala Harris sued ConocoPhillips and its spinoff, Phillips 66, for failing to properly inspect and maintain 560 underground gasoline storage tanks. This month, it’s BP’s turn.

Harris’ office filed a civil lawsuit February 1 in Alameda County Superior Court against BP West Coast Products, BP Products North America, Inc. and Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) for the way they took care of more than 780 ARCO stations around the state. She was joined in the suit by district attorneys in eight counties.

The complaint alleges that since 2006, BP and ARCO have “intentionally tampered” with or disabled leak detection devices. The suit also claims the defendants failed to test secondary containment systems, maintain operational alarm systems, conduct monthly inspections and dispose of hazardous waste properly.  

BP argued in an email to the Alameda Patch newspaper that “the majority of these alleged incidents are procedural violations concerning documentation,” and that “none of the alleged violations posed any harm to human health or the environment.”

The attorney general is seeking unspecified civil penalties for the various alleged violations and asked the court for injunctive relief; i.e. the state wants BP and ARCO to start complying with the California Health and Safety Code.

Leaking gas tanks have been an environmental problem for years, especially to groundwater. California passed a law in 1987 giving gas stations 10 years to meet strengthened underground fuel tank standards to protect against corrosion, provide leak detection and plan for spill prevention.

But because of budgetary considerations and pleas from oil companies that they be free of intrusive regulation, they were allowed to self-certify rather than suffer the ignominy of inspections. ARCO sued several local regulatory agencies in 1998 who kept insisting on conducting inspections before allowing certification.

Four years later, ARCO was forced to spend $45.8 million to settle claims that it had installed faulty underground tanks at 59 gas stations. The gasoline contained the highly toxic MTBE.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

California Blasts BP for Safety Violations (by Elizabeth Warmerdam, Courthouse News Service)

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Sues BP and ARCO over Environmental Violations at Gas Stations (California Department of Justice)

State of California v. BP West Coast Products LLC, BP Products North American, Inc. and Richfield Company (County of Alameda Superior Court) (pdf)

State Sues Two Oil Companies over Underground Tank Violations at 560 Gas Stations (by Ken Broder, AllGov)

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