Date: August 15, 2018
CHEVRON TO PAY $295,335 IN CONSUMER PROTECTION SETTLEMENT FOR SELLING LOW FLASH DIESEL
SANTA ANA, Calif. – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) has obtained a consumer protection settlement against Chevron USA (Chevron), resolving allegations of unlawful business practices relating to the company’s sale of diesel that did not meet the flash level required by state regulations. The civil settlement requires that the defendant maintain a quality control program to ensure the diesel it sells in California is not adulterated and conforms to the requirements of California law. Additionally, the settlement includes that Chevron pay $232,200 in civil penalties and costs to the county and $63,135 in costs and restitution to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Division of Measurement Standards (DMS), who investigated the case. The settlement was filed today in Orange County Superior Court and awaits signature by a judge.
Circumstances of the Case
Between Dec. 1, 2015, and Dec. 8, 2015, investigators from DMS conducted random testing of diesel samples from four Chevron stations and found them not in compliance with state regulations because they had low flash points. Two of the stations were located in Anaheim, the other two were in Buena Park and Cerritos. A flashpoint is the lowest temperature at which the application of an ignition source causes vapors above the liquid to ignite. State law requires diesel flash to be a certain temperature to ensure safe transport and delivery.
The low flash diesel at these four Chevron stations was allegedly caused by trucks “switch-loading” diesel from the Chevron terminals to these stations rather than transporting the diesel with dedicated compartments. Switch-loading is loading diesel into truck compartments that previously held gasoline. With switch-loading, carriers drain dry the residual gasoline prior to loading the diesel, however, the existence of remaining gasoline vapors can lower the flash of diesel that is put into the same compartment that held the gasoline. This is especially the case in winter, because winter-blend gasoline leaves more gasoline vapors behind then non-winter blend gasoline.
According to the settlement, Chevron must maintain a quality control program and ensure that the flash point of their diesel in California remains at required levels. Chevron may do so by requiring carriers to use diesel-on-last product loading during winter blend months. Chevron must also maintain documentation that describes its quality control program and related driver training, as well as provide such documentation to DMS or the OCDA with 72 hours’ notice. Chevron admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement agreement.
Prosecutor: Deputy District Attorney Michelle Cipolletti, Consumer Protection Unit