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Ventura County

Oil Firm to Pay $120,000 for 10 Spills

Environment: Vintage Petroleum agrees to the penalties without admitting wrongdoing.

June 20, 2002|JENIFER RAGLAND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vintage Petroleum Inc. has agreed to pay more than $120,000 in penalties stemming from 10 oil spills in Ventura County in the last three years, the district attorney's office said.

The spills, totaling about 3,100 gallons, occurred at wells operated by Vintage in Ventura, Santa Paula and Fillmore. In each incident, petroleum or petroleum residue reached the Ventura or Santa Clara rivers, Ventura County Deputy Dist. Atty. Laurel McWaters said this week. Most of the spills were the result of corroded pipelines, she said.

Without admitting wrongdoing, Oklahoma-based Vintage agreed to a final judgment, McWaters said.

The settlement requires the company to pay $45,000 each into the county Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund and the state Fish and Wildlife Preservation Fund, which support projects to protect local habitats.

Vintage will also pay $17,486 to the state Department of Fish and Game for costs to investigate the 10 spills and $13,500 to repair damage to natural resources caused by the spills, McWaters said.

The company's Ventura County operation has a history of oil spills, she said, including a similar case for multiple spills in 1998.

"The hope is that this will help deter future oil spills," McWaters said. "They need to invest some money in their oil fields to update their equipment so that these types of spills don't occur."

Two years ago, the company was ordered to pay $6 million in damages to workers and their families for a 1994 oil field accident that claimed three lives. That judgment stemmed from a civil case filed by the victims' families, who alleged that the company's negligence led to the accident.

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