California State Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a lawsuit against oil company Arco and its parent company BP. In a lawsuit filed on Feb. 4, the state attorney general and seven counties accuse the oil company of violating environmental regulations. According to a Feb. 5 Insurance Journal report, the state and seven counties are the plaintiffs. The defendants were named as BP West Coast Products, BP Products North America Inc. and Atlantic Richfield Company. The gas stations involved are ARCO gas stations.
Harris’s office led a recent statewide investigation to find that BP violated hazardous materials and hazardous waste laws as well as state regulations at BP gas stations in 37 counties across the state.
The Attorney General named seven thousand Arco stations in the lawsuit, which cites leak sensor placement as the most egregious violation. According to a Feb. 4 article by ABC 7 News.com, gas stations must place leak sensors at a very low point in the gasoline tanks to allow for early warning when any leaks develop. The lawsuit maintains that Arco installed the proper sensors but placed them an inch above the ground. This way, the sensors would not go off unless the leak was above the one-inch line or was obvious and severe. The placement would actually allow a lower level leak to go on for a while before discovery, which could be worse than a major, rapid leak.
Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Ken Misfud said that the sensor violations were the most egregious,
"BP was actually instructing their service stations here in Alameda County that they can be raised up to an inch. That would allow for a leak that wouldn't be detected for quite some time,"
While BP officials claim that the bulk of the other violations applied to documentation, the state says that the defendants tampered with or disabled leak detection devices, failed to test secondary containment systems and failed to conduct monthly inspections. The defendants also failed to train employees in proper protocols for maintaining operational alarm systems. There were also other violations. In addition, the lawsuit says that the defendants improperly handled and disposed of hazardous wastes and materials related to the underground storage tanks at retail gas stations throughout the state.
The battle became testy when BP spokespersons accused General Harris of going after money from oil companies. She recently settled with Chevron for $24 million in a similar case and filed a similar suit against ConocoPhillips in January 2012.
However, the Alameda County deputy district attorney suggests that that Arco has financial reasons for selling its gas stations. He suggests that the stations have too many environmental problems like leaking underground storage tanks.