Orange County District Attorney
Press Release

Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701

For Immediate Release
May 03, 2005
Contact:Mark Macaulay
Media Relations Director
(714) 347-8405


Santa Ana – District Attorney Tony Rackauckas appeared before the Orange County Board of Supervisors today to report on the office’s success in securing judgments against three oil companies (Shell Oil Company in 2005, Thrifty Oil Company in 2003, and the Atlantic Richfield Company-ARCO/BP in 2002).  Additionally, as a result of the timing of these settlements the district attorney announced that the office will be returning $2 million in taxpayer money to the county. Conservatively, it is estimated that over $100 million will be spent by these oil companies to clean up contamination at 370 gas station sites in Orange County.  These lawsuits represented the first civil litigation of this kind in the nation to be prosecuted by a local district attorney.

“This is a major victory for the taxpayers.  We have protected our water supply by making the polluters pay to clean up,” said District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.  “These prosecutions have a rippling effect in the industry, making oil companies more responsible to the environment when operating gas stations in our county.  My office will continue to collaborate with local and state agencies to keep our water safe.”

District Attorney Rackauckas made the decision to file these environmental protection lawsuits based upon reports filed by the Orange County Health Care Agency and investigations by the Anaheim, Fullerton, Orange, and Santa Ana Fire Departments.  These reports indicated numerous violations of state laws regulating the installation and operation of underground gasoline storage tanks.  They further showed that gasoline was leaking from improperly maintained storage tanks and the surrounding soil and groundwater had been contaminated. The presence of the gasoline additive called MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether) in the leaking fuel added to this problem.  MTBE is more soluble and moves further and faster through groundwater than other components of gasoline.  The district attorney concluded that, in view of this, an enforcement action by his prosecutors were both necessary and warranted.

Update on Cleanup

As of May 2005, ARCO/BP has spent $8.5 million on 10 of their 60 sites that required cleanup.  It is estimated that ARCO/BP will spend an additional $ 42.5 million to cleanup the remaining 50 sites.  Thrifty Oil Company is in the process of cleaning up 43 sites in Orange County; however, a dollar figure has not been released by the company.  Shell Oil Company, which settled in January, has not released preliminary figures on 184 sites in Orange County.

The total cost of cleanup by ARCO/BP, Thrifty, and Shell is estimated at more than $100 million.