EPA Fines California Blender


Commerce, California-based U.S. Lubricants Inc. agreed to pay almost $200,000 in civil penalties under a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violations of the Clean Water Act at one of its California storage facilities.

U.S. Lubricants is a full service blender, formulator and packager of specialty lubricants and chemicals. The California company is not affiliated with U.S. Lubricants of Appleton, Wisconsin.

After an inspection conducted in May 2017 of U.S. Lubricants Commerce, California, petroleum storage facility EPA found that the company failed to fulfill requirements to: inspect tanks and perform tank integrity testing; provide adequate secondary containment tanks to keep potential spills from leaving the site; develop and implement a facility response plan for major oil spills; and develop a spill prevention, control and countermeasure plan certified by a professional engineer.

The facility in violation is located approximately half a mile from the Los Angeles River, which discharges into the Pacific Ocean 17 miles downstream. Regulations state that owners and operators of facilities in a location which could reasonably expected to discharge oil in or on navigable waters are subject to certain procedures and methods of operation.

U.S. Lubricants stores over one million gallons of oil at the Commerce facility.

The EPA alleged that U.S. Lubricants violated some of the requirements for at least five years before the 2017 inspection.

Under the settlement, the company will pay $196,314. Neither it nor the EPA responded to requests for comment.

In the consent agreement and proposed final order, the agency laid out details regarding the violations. It said U.S. Lubricants failed to have its spill prevention, control and countermeasure plan certified by a professional engineer and that the plan did not address loading and unloading rack containment.

The agency said the company also failed to provide adequate secondary containment for tank farm areas and bulk storage containers; failed to perform regular tank integrity testing; and failed to secure terminal connections when not in use.

The agency said U.S. Lubricants failed to provide adequate security for piping at a rail spur; failed to maintain records of inspections and tests; and failed to address proper design of pipe supports to minimize abrasion and corrosion and allow for expansion and contraction.

The company did not prepare a facility response plan. Such plans outline responses to worst-case discharges of oil or hazardous substances and are required of facilities that store more than one million gallons of oil.

“It is essential that companies operating near our waterways develop and follow a spill prevention plan,” EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker said in a press release issued July 17. “Our action will help prevent oil spills to the Los Angeles River.”

U.S. Lubricants must pay the full settlement amount within 60 days following the official filing of the consent agreement and final order by the regional hearing clerk.