Exxon Mobil Corp. has settled a civil suit claiming the company did not immediately report a 2018 hazardous materials spill at its Gaviota Coast processing facility, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office announced Thursday.
In an agreement reached Wednesday before Superior Court Judge Pauline Maxwell in Santa Barbara, the Texas-based oil and gas corporation was ordered to pay $6,322 in penalties and reimbursement for a 420-gallon spill of a hydrochloric acid mixture — a compound considered a hazardous material — at its Las Flores Canyon facility on March 31, 2018.
"The law requires immediate reporting of hazardous-material releases to both local and state authorities, for the protection of first responders, the general public, company employees and the environment," Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley said in a statement. "Public safety demands the enforcement of these laws."
The complaint, filed May 31 this year in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, alleges Exxon Mobil violated state law by waiting 10 days to inform the Governor's Office of Emergency Services — CalOES — of the spill.
Though the company called 911 about the release, and a third-party contractor was called in to assist with the cleanup, Exxon Mobil did not inform CalOES officials of the spill until April 10, 2018.
Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors generally expressed support for budget proposals from the county’s justice-related departments during the second budget workshop Wednesday, although the sheriff was told he might not get everything he asked for. In the midst of the budget presentations, a bomb threat was made against what Sheriff Bill Brown said were “the building and several people,” which resulted in a 90-minute delay in the board returning from lunch.
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While the complaint notes Santa Barbara County Certified Unified Program Agency, a division of County Environmental Health Services, instructed Exxon Mobil to immediately report the release to CalOES, the company referred to an internal flow chart, based on federal law, to determine whether to report a release to CalOES.
Under California's Health and Safety Code, hazardous material spills of any size should be immediately reported to state authorities if the release poses a present or potential hazard to human health and safety, property or the environment.
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In addition to the settlement, Exxon Mobil will be subject to an injunction to ensure future compliance with Health and Safety Code.
The injunction requires the company to comply with California hazardous-material reporting laws, as opposed to federal quantity requirements, when deciding whether to report a release.