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EPA fines oil production company $40,000 for oil spill prevention violations

Release Date: 5/13/2005
Contact Information: Wendy L. Chavez, (415) 947-4248

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S Environmental Protection Agency recently fined an oil production company $40,000 for oil spill prevention violations at three facilities on Navajo lands near Bloomfield, New Mexico.

Elm Ridge Resources failed to have in place a plan to prevent oil discharges at three of its facilities located near intermittent streams or dry washes that carry flows to the San Juan River during periods of heavy rains. Each facility has above-ground storage tanks that store oil or oil products in 1,320 gallons or more.

"Oil spills can cause serious environmental damage -- wildlife can be harmed and waters polluted," said Keith Takata, the EPA's Superfund Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. "It's important that facilities have oil spill plans and effective spill containment in place to prevent accidents from contaminating the environment."

The EPA discovered the violations during a July 16, 2002 inspection. Since the inspection, Elm Ridge Resources has reviewed its spill prevention compliance at other facilities in the Navajo Nation. To date, it has submitted plans for 34 facilities, including the facilities cited in today's action.

Spill prevention regulations require non-transportation related facilities that store large amounts of oil to have a spill prevention plan that addresses the facility's design, operation, and maintenance procedures to prevent spills from occurring. The plan must also include countermeasures to control, contain, clean up, and mitigate any effects an oil spill might have on waterways.

Although the Elm Ridge Resources facilities are generally located near dry washes rather than perennial streams, federal regulations require spill prevention plans because an oil spill in areas like this can reach surface waters during significant storm events.

The administrative complaint is currently undergoing a 30-day public review comment period before being finalized.

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