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The Desert Sun: County settles Shell lawsuit

Debra Gruszecki
October 4, 2006

Riverside County on Tuesday announced a $6.5 million settlement involving a civil lawsuit against Equilon Enterprises and Shell Oil Co. for alleged failure to report leaking underground storage tanks at three gasoline stations in the Coachella Valley.

The leaks – discovered in June 2003 by county environmental investigators in the Equilon owned and operated stations – are located at 34-021 Date Palm Dr., Cathedral City; 43-411 Monroe St., Indio; and 4875 Ramon Road East, Palm Springs. Similar violations were uncovered at two other Equilon stations in the western end of Riverside County.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Weissman said the final judgment, though it includes a denial by Shell and Equilon of the allegations, is precedent setting.

It includes $3.6 million in civil penalties, a five-year injunction requiring the companies to comply with the law at all of their stations and forces the company to clean up all contaminated sites by 2010, she said.

What sets this judgment apart is its the quick remediation schedule and a requirement that $1.1 million is spent to install tamper-resistant, “smart sensors” on the tanks of its stations to ensure timely discovery in case of a leak, Weissman said.

David Sexton, president of Equilon, a subsidiary of Shell Oil Co., said Shell is committed to environmental compliance and is fully cooperating with the District Attorney’s Office.

“This is a voluntary settlement.”

Sexton noted, for instance, that Shell has spent more than $55 million in California since 1997 to update underground storage tanks and equipment, and ensure compliance with local, state and national regulations

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