A petroleum distribution company was sentenced in federal court in San Francisco today to pay $2.5 million for lying to two government agencies about its release of smog-producing chemicals from a tank farm in Contra Costa County.
Shore Terminals LLC was ordered by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston to pay a $1.75 million fine and to pay another $750,000 to community service projects to improve air quality in the East Bay.
The Delaware-based firm pleaded guilty before Illston in June to one count of submitting a false report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District about its compliance with the U.S. Clean Air Act.
Before being sentenced today, the company pleaded guilty to three additional counts of submitting false reports in 2005 and 2006.
Shore Terminals operates a bulk terminal with large storage tanks containing petroleum products and ethanol in Selby, an unincorporated area of Contra Costa County near Rodeo.
U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello said the company admitted in the plea agreement that it had problems between 2003 and 2006 with a vapor recovery unit designed to capture pollutants, and employees used a bypass switch to circumvent the unit.
The bypass enabled volatile organic compounds to escape into the air in violation of a permit the company had received under the Clean Air Act.
When combined with sunlight, volatile organic compounds create ground-level ozone, a major component of smog.