Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, October 22, 2002


Page 3


County Claims Board Recommends $1.3 Million Settlement Of Pollution Lawsuit Against Oil Companies, Others


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Los Angeles County may accept $1.315 million in a settlement with energy companies over a 12-year-old pollution dispute.

The county claims board voted yesterday to recommended settling a lawsuit alleging that 16 corporations, including ARCO, Texaco, Shell and Southern California Edison, didn’t keep their promises to pay for necessary cleanup work when the city found pollution at a construction site in Carson.

In 1990, the county planned to build a storm drain at the intersection of Sepulveda Boulevard and Alameda Street in Carson, an area it says in its complaint is home to over 60 underground oil pipelines owned by more than a dozen corporations, plus nearby oil refineries and storage tanks. Before starting construction, workers allegedly found hydrocarbon contamination in the soil and groundwater, which halted the project until the county could comply with the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s order to clean it up.

In the suit, the county says it went to all of the area companies that could have been a source of the pollution and asked for money to fund the cleanup. The companies allegedly agreed to pay, but wanted the county to pay for the cleanup so it could finish the construction project without unnecessary delays, then sort out the companies’ liability for the pollution afterward.

The county says it did so, following an order from the RWQCB, at a total cost to the county of over $3.5 million. However, it claims, the board never pursued payment.

In 1999, the county filed a lawsuit seeking $3.5 million plus interest since October 1997, lawyers’ fees and court costs, as well as a judge’s determination of each company’s liability for cleanup costs.

The county has already settled with Westoil Terminal Company, Powerine Oil Company and Mobile Oil Company for a total of $67,451. It also reached a tentative settlement with Shell for $475,000.

The case then went into mediation with a retired judge in an effort to settle globally. At that time, tentative agreements with ARCO and Southern California Edison were reached for $505,000. After mediation, the county reached proposed settlements with Chemoil for $85,000 and with GATX for $250,000.

If the Board of Supervisors approves all of the settlements, the county will receive a total of $1,382,451. Pursuing the case has cost the county $161,187, a figure county lawyers say will skyrocket if the case goes to trial.

Because the proposed settlement is for more than $100,000, the Board of Supervisors is required to approve it. The board will vote on the settlement on Oct. 29 at the earliest.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company