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Oil Producer Settles Claims Over Seepage

November 03, 1998|MASSIE RITSCH

A Bakersfield oil producer has agreed to pay $104,000 to settle claims that it allowed petroleum and petroleum residue to seep into county streams and rivers several times since November 1994.

Aera Energy does not admit it violated any laws or regulations, but will pay $89,000 in civil penalties and $15,000 in costs and attorneys fees, according to a statement released by the district attorney's office Monday. In its own statement, Aera said it settled to avoid litigation.

The Ventura County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund will receive $40,000 of the settlement. An additional $40,000 will be deposited into the California Department of Fish and Game's Fish and Game Preservation Fund, and the remaining $9,000 will be transferred to the county treasurer, officials said.

Fish and Game, which investigated the case, will split with the district attorney's office the $15,000 that Aera is paying for costs.

Aera must also test its pipelines monthly and repair or replace them as necessary. The settlement requires that Aera inspect dirt berms around its wells to minimize fluids from running into well cellars.

Aera said the spills covered by the settlement were reported immediately to the appropriate agencies and were cleaned up without lasting damage to the environment.

Aera Energy, formerly named CalResources, is California's largest oil producer, accounting for more than 25% of the state's production. In Ventura County, it owns 4,300 acres, producing about 15,000 barrels of oil per day and almost 5.5 million barrels per year.

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