upper waypoint

Chevron Agrees to Pay More Than $13 Million in Fines for California Oil Spills

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

Oil pumpjacks line the horizon along the Kern River in Chevron's Kern River Oil Field, the 5th largest field in the U.S., located just north and east of Bakersfield, on July 7, 2021, in Oildale, Kern County. (George Rose/Getty Images)

Chevron has agreed to pay more than $13 million in fines for dozens of past oil spills in California.

The California-based energy giant agreed to pay a $5.6 million fine associated with a 2019 oil spill in Kern County, first reported by KQED and was California’s biggest uncontrolled release of crude petroleum in decades.

Chevron has already paid to clean up that spill, while this latest payment will go to the state Department of Conservation to plug orphaned wells and for state efforts to respond to future oil spills.

The department said it was the largest fine ever assessed in its history.

“This agreement is a significant demonstration of California’s commitment to transition away from fossil fuels while holding oil companies accountable when they don’t comply with the state’s regulations and environmental protections,” department Director David Shabazian said in a news release.

The 2019 oil spill dumped at least 800,000 gallons of oil and water into a canyon in Kern County, the home of the state’s oil industry. Oil and water flowed from the ground for months near Chevron wells near the Kern County town of McKittrick, and the release was so big Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the clean-up site.

Chevron also agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine for more than 70 smaller spills between 2018 and 2023 that state officials say killed or injured more than 60 animals. These incidents accounted for more than 446,000 gallons of oil spilled, killing or injuring at least 63 animals and impacting at least 6 acres of salt brush and grassland habitat, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response.

The department said it was the largest administrative fine in its history. Most of the money will go to projects to acquire and preserve habitat. A portion of the money will also go to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and to help respond to future oil spills.

Related Stories

“This settlement is a testament to our firm stance that we will hold businesses strictly liable for oil spills that enter our waterways and pollute our environment,” Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham said.

In a statement Wednesday night, Chevron said the settlements demonstrate the company’s commitment to addressing problems and preventing similar incidents in the future.

“We always strive to meet or exceed our environmental obligations. When we do not achieve that goal, we take responsibility and appropriate action,” a spokesperson for the company said. “We are pleased to put this matter behind us in a way that benefits our community so we can continue to focus on providing the affordable, reliable, and ever-cleaner energy California needs.”

This story includes reporting by The Associated Press and KQED’s Ted Goldberg.


lower waypoint
next waypoint