Feds say Santa Maria oil firm pleading guilty to polluting

Greka Energy subsidiary Santa Maria Refining Co. will plead guilty to illegal disposal of wastewater, the U.S. attorney’s office said Thursday.

The company was charged with knowingly injecting oil refining wastewater back into the ground and lying about it to federal monitors. Employees Robert Thompson and Edward Stotler, as well as former employee Brent Stromberg, were charged with making false statements.

Santa Maria Refining will pay a $1 million fine plus restitution to the Environmental Protection Agency and establish an independently audited environmental compliance program.

Federal officials said the illegal wastewater disposal risked contaminating groundwater and violated the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

The defendants are scheduled to enter pleas April 23 in Los Angeles federal court, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.