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Release Date: 1/24/1997
Contact Information: Dave Schmidt, (415) 744-1578

     (San Francisco) -- In a consent decree filed this week in federal district court, Berry Petroleum Co. agreed to pay state and federal agencies a total of $3.17 million in penalties, cleanup costs and damages arising from an 84,000-gallon oil spill from Berry's crude oil well field and processing facility near Oxnard. The spill fouled nearby McGrath Lake and McGrath State Beach.

     "We are pleased that Berry Petroleum is reimbursing the taxpayers for the environmental damage caused by their oil spill," said Keith Takata, director of U.S. EPA's western regional Hazardous Waste Division.  "This case shows that failure to prevent pollution is not only bad for the environment, it's bad for a company's bottom line."

     In December 1993, Berry spilled at least 84,000 gallons of crude oil into McGrath Lake, a wetlands and pond area near McGrath State Beach.  The oil spill spread from there to the Pacific Ocean and adjoining beaches, temporarily spoiling them for recreational use and causing death or injury to numerous birds.  The spill originated from a ruptured oil line used to transport oil from an oil well field to holding tanks.  Berry failed to notice the spill for several days  due to its failure to perform surveillance measures required by U.S. EPA's Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Regulations.    
     Of the $3.17 million total that Berry will pay under the consent decree, $1,315,000 will go to a trust fund for long-term restoration measures to be administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.  The Foundation will use the trust fund  under the supervision of the government natural resource agencies involved in responding to the spill.  

     Berry will pay $800,000 to the U.S. Treasury as a penalty for violating the Clean Water Act, and an additional $200,000 to the State for violating California's Porter-Cologne Act.   Most of the remainder will go to natural resource agencies, including the State Parks Department, the State Lands Commission, the U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Coast Guard, to reimburse them for cleanup and response costs.

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