Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Greka Oil Needs to Be Shut Down

A concerned reader points out that The Santa Maria Times reports that Greka Oil spilled 800 barrels of oil and industrially tainted water into a creekbed in their second incident within 20-minutes on Friday. This should raise serious concerns among County of Santa Barbara officials as it is the second time in less than a month that their facility has been shut down.

UPDATE 12/11: The Board of Supervisors will be holding a hearing this morning on the subject matter above this morning. Although the board is meeting in Santa Maria, one can testify via video from the Santa Barbara hearing room if one desires. As this is being heard as a departmental item -- the Environmental Defense Center is asking for a full hearing on Greka's compliance and accident history.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greka's equipment is old and worn out, it's owner is a foreigner and really does not care what happens and the the State has no power to shut them down... let's pay attention to what is important locally and ruin De la Guerra Plaza, the plans that they have will do just that.

12/09/2007 10:08 PM  
Anonymous eight santa barbara said...

How much dos the county make off Greka? That might have something to do with it.

If the money isn't worth it, the place ought to be shut down permanently.

The News-Press has in the past made a list and timeline of spills by companies like this. Where's the list at now?

Maybe we should just be glad we're not doing like the South Koreans this week, mopping up 2 million gallons of crude on the beaches. (sarcasm)

12/09/2007 10:10 PM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noreiga said...

Anon 10:08/

GLAD you mentioned Plaza de la Guerra--although you get the name wrong too...check out the old maps.

This Thursday, rain or shine, at 1:00 PM, the Planning Commission, is going to take up a consideration of my Plaza, the one that I gave to the community. It's about time. The last time City Hall did anything good for the Plaza was 1924, and they left the job unfinished.

Good news. Despite having been dead for about 160 years, I am making a special appearance to clear up what's what on the Plaza.

Hotchkiss on the Plaza hasn't got the foggiest idea what he's talking about. And the Newssuppress just wants their parking spaces on public property in front of their building. They're not defending City Hall parking. (Come on, Travis fess up) And Rickard has lots of new parking in front of his business (diagonal--just like in the old days!).

In any case, Don Jose de la Guerra y Noreiga (That's my Casa on the Plaza--by the way, I gave up my parking!)is going to be there! Don't miss him.

Believe me I know what's up with the Plaza. And I think the little clean up tweak we're talking about is much needed. And it's a giant leap forward into the Plaza's true past.

Can't wait to eat in one of those restaurants opening on the Plaza. The whole thing when properly done will be very good for local business.

12/10/2007 6:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's time for this Board of Supervisors to take a stand---EIGHT HUNDRED BARRELS OF OIL into a CREEKBED?!?!? Shut this place down. This should go beyond North/South politics and be seen as the right thing to do....

12/10/2007 7:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How are they going to get rid of the vagrants on the Plaza when they can't get rid of them any place else.

What about the new plaza that is being incorporated into the new huge mixed use project for Radio Square on Carrillo that is also up before the Planning Commission?

You know, the one asking for 29 more bonus density units than the land allows because they tarted it up as an "affordable" project knowing the city will bend over and give them anything they want?

If they can't keep the vagrants coming from the bus depot out of the Ralph's Supermarket plaza, who will they keep them out of the Radio Square plaza?

Ralph's had to take away the arbor benches in the landscaping because of all the vagrants misusing them, harassing their customers and turning this plaza area into a pigpen?

Does the design for DLG Plaza make it uninviting to these vagrants, these very people this city council has encouraged to come here and stay?

And where will they go after they leave DLG Plaza. Move on to Alameda Park and Alice Keck Park?

Will Helene Schnieder really make good on her promise to end homelessness in a few more years?

She said she would do this in 10 years, and she has already spent several years on this, so how many more years left out of this 10 year promise to end homelessness is now left and what does she have to show for it, besides attending a lot of meetings?

What is really behind changing DLG Plaza? It ain't broke. Stop wasting your money and stop encouraging vagrants to keep coming here and misuing our resources.

12/10/2007 9:07 AM  
Anonymous Just a coincidence I'm sure said...

Neither Santa Maria Times, SB Independent, SB Daily Sound, nor KEYT could get anyone from Greka to provide a comment on the record, but the News-Press did get MIKE STOKER to defend Greka backwards and forwards. What should we conclude from that and about Stoker?

Below are excerpts from the article with the Stoker interview.

Greka official defends environmental record
December 9, 2007

In the wake of Friday's estimated 33,600-gallon spill from a Santa Maria oil-processing plant, a company official staunchly defended the firm's environmental record and said it will continue to work with oversight agencies to mitigate the chance of oil leaks in the future.

"I think the work we do will lead to a diminishment of these problems," said Greka Energy Corporation spokesman Mike Stoker. "But no matter what you do, you're going to have failures. That's why you have giant berms around oil facilities. . . .They wouldn't be there if the operator of the plant and the regulatory agencies weren't acknowledging the fact that an accident can occur."

"We feel very confident we are doing everything the regulators have been asking us to do," Mr. Stoker said. "The input is that the regulators are happy and content with our response."

Three separate incidents occurred at two Santa Maria Greka plants Friday, compelling the Santa Barbara County Fire Department to issue a stop-work order delineating conditions Greka must meet in order to resume normal operations, said fire department spokesman Capt. Eli Iskow.

Mr. Stoker suggested that Greka might look into creating an electrically independent "float-type alarm system," which could still operate during an electrical malfunction.

The latest oil leak follows a string of similar incidents that have created environmental concerns. In the past few years, there have been several spills at Greka plants in Santa Maria.

Last month, Greka received orders to shut down its Bradley Three Island oil plant, 3851 Telephone Road, following three incidents.

On Nov. 12, there was a 6,300-gallon crude-oil spill that was followed a day later by an 840-gallon spill. On Nov. 15, an equipment malfunction released a dangerous level of hydrogen sulfide gas and one barrel of crude oil.

In December 2005, a similar stop-work order was issued by county fire officials after more than 2,000 gallons of oil spilled out of a tank at the company's lease on Zaca Station Road in Los Olivos and into a nearby creek.

In years past, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Fish and Game have fined Greka for several violations.

Mr. Stoker said Greka's environmental record should be judged in a historical context.

"I've been told the kind of things that were out in Santa Maria County, why the homes began being built out there," Mr. Stoker said. "You didn't have the regulations back then, and it's good that we live in an environmentally conscious society where you have this kind of incident in the creek where everyone is very alarmed. Yet if the situation happened 50 years ago, no one would be talking about it."

Terry Dressler, air pollution control officer for the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, said his agency would investigate Friday's incidents to determine if there were any air-quality violations.

"Greka hasn't had the greatest track record," Mr. Dressler said. "They've had over 250 violations -- most of them minor -- in the last eight years that we've documented, and they've paid significant penalties for those violations. They've been challenged to put systems in place so that they can meet compliance," he said. "We're hoping in the near future that their track record will improve. But time will tell."

"Greka was faced with the challenge of upgrading aged infrastructure to make sure they could stay in compliance and produce oil to feed the refinery," Mr. Dressler said. "They've been doing upgrades ever since they came in there.

12/10/2007 11:42 AM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Let's get back to Greka....

12/10/2007 5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike Stoker, now spokesperson for Greka, has politically re-invented himself more than Richard M. Nixon.

He used to be Sen Tom McClintok's local boy water carrier, you know OUR local rep, the man who never learned to say yes to any legislation ever presented in Sacramento during his entire history representing our fellow countrymen from Simi Valley. Thank you again for that mismatch, Ms HB Jackson.

No one has to worry about unemployment in Santa Barbara County when an itinerent gadfly like MIke Stoker keeps coming up with jobs for himself. There must be plenty to go around for everyone else if his resume keeps coming to the top of the list.

12/10/2007 6:09 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Strong words -- can you give us your real opinion! Just kidding :)

12/10/2007 6:45 PM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noreiga said...

I need to report to the blog that the meeting on Plaza de la Guerra has been "mis-explained" by the Newsuppress, and in fact the Planning Commission Meeting won't occur until January 24. Travis will have to rearrange his 'letters to the editor' stack.

Let me also take this opportunity to report to the highly leveraged happy bloggers whose infinite number appear here on Blogabarbara, that the Plaza tweaks will be very good for local property values and thus for you.

12/11/2007 7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike Stoker can be personally a nice guy, but has run some of the ugliest, meanest campaigns out there and lost everyone of them, from Tom Rogers on.

Wasn't he originally appointed and not elected to County Sups and then lost again when he was up for mandatory election after his appointment?

12/11/2007 7:48 AM  
Anonymous Personally a nice guy said...

From Daily Sound today:

But while [Fire Dept. Captain] Iskow maintains the Greka equipment fails because it is old, Mike Stoker, a spokesman for Greka, said the systems it uses are approved by the very agencies that are criticizing it.
“Everything was in as designed, everything was in as requested and inspected with regulators,” Stoke said. “The bottom line is this: whenever you have anything that is machinery oriented, no matter what you can still have accidents.”
Stoke said the alarm that failed was one of the newest pieces of equipment at the facility.
He acknowledged that the equipment used at the majority of facilities throughout the state by all energy companies is old, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useable.
As an example, Stoke compared Greka facilities to NASA’s space program, which he said has seen well-maintained shuttles explode during flight.
When asked if he believed Greka was doing everything in its power to prevent spills, Stoke said they were.
“In terms of this, I don’t know what else can be done,” he said.
While Stoke says Greka is doing everything in its power to prevent such incidents, the company continues to top the Santa Barbara County Pollution Control District’s list of main offenders.
Terry Dressler, director of the Pollution Control District and an air pollution control officer, said since 1999 Greka has been issued 250 air quality violation notices. During that same time, Dressler said Greka has paid the county $500,000 for air quality fines alone.
Dressler said Greka racked up 65 air quality citations last year alone, which far exceeds any other entity.
Similar to Iskow, who said on Friday he wasn’t sure how much Greka would be fined for the spill; Dressler said the problem is in the age of the equipment.
“I think the problem out there is the equipment is very old and it’s aging,” he said. “It’s not in the best condition.”
But also like Iskow, Dressler said the Pollution Control District conducts vigorous inspections of county energy facilities, of which 56 belong to Greka – the largest number for any company in the county.
“We inspect facilities periodically,” Dressler said. “When we determine there are violations, we require them to repair what’s broken or come into compliance.
“Our regulations are pretty strict and we will continue to enforce our regulations.”
But despite the inspections of the County Fire Department and Pollution Control District, which both claim are strict, spills and air quality violations persist.
Stoke said he doesn’t believe this is the fault of Greka or county agencies.
“If they approve a facility that has faulty valves it would be derelict of their responsibilities,” Stoke said. “Things can be old. They’re routinely inspected.
“At the end of the day every single one of these operations can only operate after state, county and federal regulatory agencies can sign them off.”

12/11/2007 10:36 AM  
Anonymous christine said...

Greka needs to stop making excuses. If the equiptment is outdated, update where you can.

Mike Stoker- I laughed out loud when I read in the NP that he is the new spokeman for Greka- perfect fit!!!

We need oil, and there is no excuse to have a shoddy company pulling it up out of the ground.

Anyone been to Firestones oil fields, south of the Winery- all run by Greka.

12/11/2007 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greka is a private business.

and it's nine of your business.

All of you bleeding heart liberals learn to MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!


12/11/2007 1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mind our own business? yea, like our creekbeds, water table, wildlife and other living organisms being desecrated by Greka? not to worry, we WILL mind it....we always have.....too bad the North County didn't split away when they had the chance...they could continue to freely spill all the oil they wanted without interference from us "bleeding heart" liberals

12/11/2007 7:55 PM  
Blogger Curtis said...

Greka is not proud of any spills and its employees take it personally. To politicize a spill is flat out wrong. The mess that was made will be cleaned up and no one will acknowledge the work that will have been done or the amount of money spent. You won’t see pictures after the clean-up showing the landscape back to its original form. Greka has spent over $7 million along on infrastructure improvements in 2007. There was not an environmental catastrophe here. The spill breached its berm and went into a dry creek bed. There was no wildlife or fish killed. It looks ugly makes news but will be cleaned up and the problem fixed. Greka employs over 250 people and spends a lot of money in the community. Any time there is a spill it gives the whole company a black eye. There are some commentators who mention the owner as being a foreigner and not caring. Those comments are farthest from the truth. He cares very much what happens in Santa Barbara County and Santa Maria and most all the employees are locally grown and they care about the perception in the community. I’m tired of politicians getting in front of a camera and trying to make this a political event and making themselves righteous.

12/12/2007 4:25 PM  
Anonymous Is GREKA the victim now? said...

This is a fairly big oil spill, especially when it is a direct result of faulty monitoring and warning equipment, all fully the responsibility of Greka.

Whether they passed the inspections earlier is just purely a Cover-Your-Ass spin move by Stoker.

Greka is a chronic oil offender, known for years to blow off public and news media inquiries.

And "Curtis" there seems to think that just because Greka "spends a lot of money in the community" that somehow is supposed to excuse them from their criminal actions.

Be assured, these repeat air pollution emissions and oil spills are crimes.

"Curtis" may be tired of politicians making this a political event, but the rest of us are tired about their excuses for pretending this is not repeatedly illegal pollution.

GREKA CANNOT SPIN ITS WAY OUT OF THIS, no matter how much money they pay on their Stoker Spin Machine.

12/12/2007 9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anyone watch/listen to the big choke-o-rama of the supes who couldn't even agree on hearing a report on the spill? janet and salud tried, but i swear i thought they had more political power than that.

12/12/2007 9:37 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

I agreed but think it has less to do with their political capitol than it being a North v South issue. The two northern Supes wanted to be careful about a North County business as far as I can see...Janet has a right to be upset as far as I am concerned.

12/12/2007 10:54 PM  
Anonymous sa1 said...

Sorry Curtis,

Although I'm empathetic with your thoughts, you must appreciate that just because it wasn't a disaster this time, it easily could have been (as far as we know). While it's true that gov't inspectors can turn one situation into dozens of infractions, the repeated pattern over the years screamed for more attention at the highest levels on all sides.

Keeping heavy equipment safe and in good working order is not rocket science. The airline industry does it every day.

It offends the sensibilities that given the profit margins of oil products for the last few years, your owners choose not to put in whatever maintenance upgrades were required or that your local managers didn't insist on it.

As far as foreigner owners, one only need look at the reckless uncaring, toxic polluters throughout the Far East to fear the mindset that allows that to happen.

It sure is bitter medicine now, but trust me, it's for the good of everybody involved to take a time out and fine tooth comb that facility and your procedures. Sounds like some refresher training might be in order too.

Good Luck with all that. Let us know how it turns out.

"I works on the levee, mama both night and day,
I ain't got nobody, keep the oil away
Oh crying won't help you, praying won't do no good,
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to lose.
It's a mean old levee, cause me to weep and moan
Gonna leave my baby, and my happy home"

12/13/2007 12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yes it IS too bad that the North county didn't split to get away from you bleeding heart socialist liberals.

Now, GET A LIFE, and mind your own business.
Your impotent to do anything anyway.

12/13/2007 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

South County missed a splendid opportunity not splitting away from North County when given the chance a few years ago.

I never understood why they did not jump at this. The unnecessary strife keeping these two strangers together for life is not worth it.

Hello Mission County. You are welcome.

12/13/2007 7:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yea, 1215, just wait till this time next year......perhaps we'll actually be able to utilize the resources of our county---%70 of which come from the south---on enhancing the environment and not destroying it

12/13/2007 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's be tough and enforce the laws.

Law and order is good.

Three strikes and you're out.

Greka should be put in San Quentin and they key thrown away.

12/13/2007 10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those of you who are without sin cast the first stone.

I thought so.

Get a life! and mind your own business.

12/14/2007 7:03 AM  
Blogger nuffalready said...

Newsflash: Oil comes from the Earth. It does not come from Mars, evil corporations, or uncaring foreigners. It comes from Mother Nature...who happens to be the worst offender when it comes to spills. Nature 'spills' about 100 barrels a day in this county according to the USGS. That's everyday... including Earth Day. Shall we shut her down?

12/17/2007 9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plant more trees. How come no one is talking about the destruction of the rain forest anymore? Trees suck up CO2.

No wonder there are more greenhouse gases. Burning fossil fuel is not as bad as cutting down all those trees. It is all out of balance because we have lost so many forests around the world.

We can't stop burning fossil fuel, so for heaven's sakes everyone - go plant some trees. Lots of them. Now. This is something you can do today. ASAP

India and China have huge denuded areas of land.Make the deserts bloom, just like they did in Isreal. We are crazy not to be planting trees like crazy. Get off the net and go plant one today.

12/18/2007 12:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has the press or politicians checked out the spill area lately. There is nothing to be seen and Greka did an excellent job of cleaning it up. There were no dead animals or tiger salamanders to be found.

12/19/2007 3:22 PM  
Anonymous the environmentalist said...

3;22 p.m.

No, there was actually one dead weed.

Thats much mote important to our country than to be dependent from foreign oil, right?
And of course I, personally, don't drive a car or use any oil or gasoline, so don't call me the pot that called the Geiko black.

12/21/2007 10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the county and state is who benifits from greka, is the epa who is crying because they are federal and not seeing any of the cash....

12/21/2007 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greka oil is NOT going to be shut down .
So you are all wasting your time talking about it.

Don't you have anything better to do, than to stick your nose into someone's private business where it doesn't belong ?

Get a life!

12/21/2007 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How may greka haters does it take to screw in a light bulb.
Three, one to hold the bulb and two to rotate the chair.

12/22/2007 1:16 PM  
Anonymous sa1 said...

how many Greka employees does it take to ignore what's going on in the facility and not tell anyone to save their jobs

apparently all of them

12/22/2007 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

o.k. sa1
you win this one.

12/22/2007 7:27 PM  
Anonymous Mussel Shoals Resident said...

Greka's safety problems are not isolated to Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. The Rincon Island facility, which sits right off the beach in the Pacific Ocean, has a poor safety record as well. The former manager, Bill Yates, quit when Greka came in and told me that he didn't want to be responsible for any accidents due to Greka's unwillingness to pay for anything. Audible alarms indicating a pressure drop sound weekly on the island. And even though drilling for oil and natural gas is going on constantly, the island is not even manned at times. They get paged on a pager and show up a half hour later. Half the employees are on crystal meth. Either they don't test for that, or their tests are easy to cheat on. The only sober employees are the Manager Richard and the black guy. The rest are bombed half out of their minds when they drive off the island over the bridge. They have had oil spills in the past, some reported, some not. Now there is a big hole in the entry way to the bridge. They've thrown down a couple of steel plates to drive over it. The fire department saw it and would not even drive a truck over it. There is barbed wire, debris and electrical wires hanging onto the rocks at the entryway where familys go fishing. At least the enforcement bodies in Santa Barbara seem to care. No one in Ventura County does. And, unlike the "private property - private business" claim of an anonymous poster above, this island is owned by the state of California and administered by the Califonria State Lands commission. The SLC claims they have DAILY inspections. Right. Maybe once a month and they are deceived by the employees and turn a blind eye to what they do seem to catch. If, as they claim, they are down here daily, what would that cost them? $50k+/year? Now, I've looked at the production records and their only pumping maybe a half-million dollars a year (at $100 oil + $20 gas) and the state gets 16% of that, so the state gets mabye $80k before paying their employee to make inspections, etc. The SLC has a whole division for this, and there are few facilities like this. The state is probably LOSING money just to give Greak a piece of prime coastline property for a potential spill or other disaster. Your tax dollars at work, subsidizing drilling by Greka on public land, with the potential for a disaster on a public beach! And then there's the guy that says Randeep Grewal cares about all of this? The guy is an arch criminal that will probably be indicted within the next year on charges of bankruptcy fraud. The company, when it buys out another company, assumes the debt of the company ... that is, the money that should have been paid to the workers that do repairs and drilling. Then they just don't pay. They split up the companies into assets and liabilities (there are several different Greka's on paper) and then keep the assets, go bankrupt on the liabilities and don't report the sales. Now the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee is having a bit of a problem getting ahold of the books and Randeep is sitting in Thailand. He's a potential billionaire with Green Dragon's contracts with China. He couldn't give a crap about any of the spills or problems here. Greka is nothing to him.

Rants like this one have a way of finding their way onto Google and remaining there for approximately FOREVER. So if you think I'm some kook coming off the wall with unsubstantiated allegations, revisit this in one year and tell me then that any of it is untrue.

1/02/2008 4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1/06/2008 7:26 PM  

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