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The Bakersfield Californian: Florez calls for action against Shell

Shell Oil ceased operations at its Bakersfield refinery on Sept. 30, 2004. The Rosedale Highway refinery was the largest in Bakersfield.

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BY STACEY SHEPARD, Californian staff writer, e-mail: [email protected] | Monday, Aug 27 2007: 2:27 PM

State Sen. Dean Florez has asked the state’s attorney general to take legal action against Shell for the company’s inaction in cleaning up contaminated groundwater beneath the Rosedale Highway refinery it previously owned.

In the letter to Attorney General Jerry Brown on Monday, Florez said the regulatory agency in charge of protecting groundwater — the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board — has been ineffective at getting Shell to clean up the contamination.

The water board “has a history of inaction and has demonstrated an unwillingness to require the necessary action in this instance,” Florez said.

The letter comes following an investigation by The Bakersfield Californian that showed the water board has never taken formal action against Shell and the refinery’s previous owners to address pollution beneath the refinery caused by leaks and spills going back to 1987.

Instead, the water board has allowed the companies to voluntarily remediate. When Shell sold the facility two years ago, it agreed to accept responsibility for past pollution. But since then, cleanup has nearly ground to a halt.

Soil and water beneath the 525-acre site are saturated with oil, benzene, MTBE and other petroleum chemicals, mainly due to spills and leaks that happened before Shell sold the facility to Flying J in 2005. The site is close to the Kern River and a city well supplying drinking water.

The water board did issues a formal cleanup order in June to Big West of California, the Flying J subsidiary that now runs the refinery, when new contamination surfaced. The board also said Monday it issued a formal clean up order later last week to Shell regarding the past pollution.

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