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ExxonMobil Resolves Santa Clara River Oil Spill Case with California and the Federal Government:

Release Date: 9/25/2002
Contact Information: Mark Merchant

The $4.7 million agreement means restoration of a damaged natural resource

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game today announced a settlement under which ExxonMobil Oil Corp. will pay the United States and the state of California $4.7 million for a spill of crude oil from a Southern California pipeline operated by the former Mobil Oil Company.

The bulk of the money will go towards restoration of natural resources injured by the spill; the remainder will be paid as federal and state civil penalties and other damages.

The spill occurred when a segment of pipeline beneath the Valencia Golf Course ruptured in 1991. The oil flowing from the pipeline fouled a 15-mile stretch of the Santa Clara River between Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

The Santa Clara River and surrounding habitat are home to a rich abundance of plant and animal life -- including numerous endangered and threatened species -- protected under federal and California law. Despite Mobil’s prompt response to the spill, damages to flora and fauna in and along the river were unavoidable.

The settlement provides funds that will be used to preserve and restore habitat in the river in compensation for the natural resources that were lost as a result of the spill. Restoring natural resources lost in this area is of great benefit to the local ecology and the public.

"This cases underscores the harm oil spills can cause despite a rapid response by the company -- at least 1,777 barrels of crude oil were discharged and the spill caused extensive damage to wildlife and vegetation, including birds, amphibians, and mammals. The habitat supporting these and certain endangered species was also compromised. Enforcement in this area is crucial to ensure companies have plans in place for preventing, preparing for, and responding to oil spills,"said John Peter Suarez, EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

"Today’s settlement provides needed funds that can be effectively used to offset the losses caused by the Santa Clara River spill," said Justice Department Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources Tom Sansonetti. "The settlement is also an example of what can be accomplished through a close federal-state working relationship, such as we have with the state of California."

"This settlement shows that federal government and our state partners are actively enforcing environmental laws, and compliance with these laws is one of the cornerstones of environmental protection," said Wayne Nastri, regional administrator of EPA’s San Francisco office. "These laws are meant to prevent, or at a minimum reduce, environmental destruction caused by ruptures and leaks in the hundreds of thousands of miles of underground pipelines in the Pacific Southwest."

"These settlement funds will eventually be put to work to benefit the many species along the Santa Clara River," said Diane Noda, field supervisor for the state’s Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office. "We’ve already worked in partnership with conservation groups, state agencies, and stakeholders on a resource plan from a previous oil spill in the river, and now we'll build on these relationships to come up with further proposals to protect and enhance this unique Southern California river system."

"The Department of Fish and Game is pleased that this case could finally be settled, and we can begin restoring the ecosystem," said Administrator Harlan Henderson of the state’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response. "The high rate of human population growth and urbanization in the area makes this remediation all the more pressing."

The settlement was lodged today in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and is subject to a 30-day public comment period.

For more information on oil spills, oil spill response and EPA’s compliance and enforcement programs, visit these Web sites: