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Ulvestad v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc.

Citation: 23 ELR 21255
No. No. SACV 91-296-GLT, 818 F. Supp. 292/36 ERC 1612/(C.D. Cal., 04/06/1993)

The court holds that California's Carpenter-Presley-Tanner Hazardous Substance Account Act, which is modeled after the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), excludes the regulation of refined petroleum, including gasoline. The court dismisses those counts of a private plaintiff's complaint against an oil company that seek response costs and declaratory relief under the California Act for soil and groundwater contamination from gasoline leaking from underground storage tanks. The court holds that the plain meaning of the California Act reveals that gasoline is exempt from the Act. The Act excludes from regulation petroleum, crude oil, and crude oil fractions. Gasoline is a crude oil fraction. This is the same result as under case law interpreting the almost identical provision in CERCLA. The court declines to give deference to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control's interpretation of the California Act, because that agency's interpretation is directly contrary to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's and the Ninth Circuit's interpretations of nearly identical provisions. In addition, the California agency's interpretation did not result from formal notice and comment proceedings. Moreover, the California legislature has provided for the cleanup of underground storage tank spills in other statutory provisions, and funding for this cleanup program is not derived from the California Act.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Joel S. Moskowitz, Jeffrey D. Dintzer
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
333 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles CA 90071
(213) 229-7000

Counsel for Defendants
Linda Sutton, Michael A. Taitelman
Alschuler, Grossman & Pines
1880 Century Park E., 12th Fl., Los Angeles CA 90067
(310) 277-1226