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FOCUS: ORANGE COUNTY COMMUNITY NEWS | NORTHWEST: HUNTINGTON
BEACH

Santa Fe Springs Sued by City Over Oil Deal

September 23, 1998|LESLEY WRIGHT

Prepared for an all-out battle to stop a company from pumping oil off its shores, the City Council has unanimously agreed to take the city of Santa Fe Springs to court.

The Santa Fe Springs Planning Commission last month gave televangelist Pat Robertson's CENCO Refining Co. permission to resume operations at a defunct refinery there. The refinery would be the destination of crude oil that CENCO hopes to pump from a closed Huntington Beach offshore terminal.

City Council members said Monday that they would use all their resources to keep the terminal closed. They cited memories of a 416,000-gallon oil spill in 1990, when an American Trader tanker at the terminal ran over its anchor, resulting in the county's worst environmental disaster.

Under the council vote, the city will file a lawsuit, in either Orange or Los Angeles counties, asking a judge to order Santa Fe Springs to conduct a full environmental impact review on the refinery plan and to reverse the company's operating permit, City Atty. Gail Hutton said.

Santa Fe Springs attorneys said CENCO's plan requires no environmental review because the refinery had never been completely shut down and the permit never lapsed.

"This was not an expansion," said Colin Lennard, the city's environmental attorney. "There was nothing being proposed that would add anything to the original facility. As far as the city is concerned, there have been a number of very stringent health-related conditions attached."

Steve Skolnik, city attorney for Santa Fe Springs, said the pending legal action was "not a shock."

Although aware that they might be challenged, city officials there decided the refinery would benefit its residents, he said.

"We believe that what we've done is legally justified," Skolnik said.

Huntington Beach Councilman Ralph Bauer said they should prepare for a showdown.

"Somebody needs to send CENCO a message," he said Monday. "When the community is in agreement, Huntington Beach can be a prickly opponent. CENCO should understand that they ought not take us lightly."

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