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Local News

Greka President Defends Company After Weekend Oil Spills

Andrew DeVegvar calls the county's stop-work order an 'overreaction' to an incident caused by human error.

After about 1,600 gallons of oil and produced water leaked from Greka’s Bell Canyon lease onto the ground and into a nearby ravine over the weekend, company president Andrew DeVegvar pleaded Greka’s side Monday afternoon, calling the county’s subsequent stop-work order an “overreaction.”

Three incidents were reported on three consecutive days — Friday to Sunday — totaling about 1,600 gallons of oil from the company’s Palmer Road facility. The incidents prompted the county’s Fire Department Fire Prevention Division to issue a stop-work order “due to unsafe acts and conditions.”

DeVegvar countered Monday that the spillage was the result of one incident, not three. A pipeline did break, he said, but an operator’s error in choosing the wrong valve to close — not improperly maintained facilities — was the reason leaks occurred Saturday and Sunday.

“It was because a human being made a mistake,” he said. A more appropriate action would have been a partial stop-work order, he said, not one that takes the entire facility out of play.

Almost exactly a year ago, Greka came under fire for a series of spills and leaks at its facilities that released hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude and other hazardous fluids, resulting in state and federal intervention and inspiring lawmakers to crack down on the oil company.

Adding to Greka’s woes is the possibility that jobs may be lost if the company goes under because of the stop-work order. After several layoffs and pay cuts, Greka may have to lay off up to 200 more workers if the county’s order is not lifted soon. Complicating the process is the county furlough that has employees taking a mandatory two weeks off over the holidays.

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