Coincidence or piling on?
Less than a week after a federal judge accepted an agreement by BP to plead guilty for its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties for the worst offshore oil spill in US history, the State of California has sued the UK oil giant.
California has sued BP Plc units (including ARCO) claiming they violated environmental laws by failing to inspect and maintain underground storage tanks at 780 gas stations in the state. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley claims that since 2006, BP West Coast Products, BP Products North America Inc., and ARCO tampered with or disabled leak detection devices, did not test secondary containment systems, and failed to conduct monthly inspections or maintain operation alarm systems.
Six other California counties have joined Alameda County and California Attorney General Kamala Harris in the lawsuit (filed on February 4 in Alameda County Superior Court). The suit claims that a statewide investigation found violations of hazardous materials and hazardous waste laws and regulations at gas stations in 37 counties across the state, including 28 gas stations in Alameda County.
While it would be understandable that BP might be feeling a little besieged by the volume of US litigation it has faced in recent months, it might be comforted to know that in the case of California, at least, it has not been singled out. In January 2012 the California Attorney General’s office filed a similar lawsuit against Phillips 66 and ConocoPhillips.