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Attorney General, Solano County District Attorney File Complaint Against Exxon Over Benicia Refinery Discharges that Allegedly Violate Proposition 65

Friday, September 17, 1999
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(FAIRFIELD, Calif.) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Solano County District Attorney David Paulson filed today a civil complaint against the Exxon Corporation for chemical discharges at the oil company's Benicia refinery that allegedly violate Proposition 65 and pose a public and private nuisance.

The complaint seeks an injunction, civil penalties and other appropriate remedies to correct the spilling and leaking of petroleum chemicals and products from storage tanks, process units and pipelines at Exxon's Benicia refinery. Exxon is accused of knowingly discharging chemicals between October 27, 1988 through the present in violation of Proposition 65.

Passed by the voters, the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 – also known as Proposition 65 – is designed to protect the public from exposure to toxic substances known to cause cancer or be harmful to reproductive health. The law prohibits a person in the course of doing business from knowingly discharging or releasing a Proposition 65 chemical into water or onto land where such chemical passes or probably will pass into any source of drinking water. The law provides a fine of up to $2,500 for each violation.

The complaint against Exxon alleges that benzene, toluene and other chemicals at the refinery have seeped into the ground and into surface water and groundwater. The leaks were found to have contaminated water that is considered a potential source of drinking water, and pose a hazard for other potential sources of drinking water such as nearby Sulphur Springs Creek.

Benzene was placed in February 1987 on the state's Proposition 65 list as a chemical known to cause cancer, and was listed in December, 1997 as a chemical known to cause reproductive toxicity. Toluene was listed in January 1991 as a Proposition 65 chemical known to cause reproductive toxicity.

The civil complaint also asks that Exxon abate the public and private nuisance created by the refinery spills and leaks; be directed to prevent further spills and leaks; and be required to fully restore the natural resources damaged by the defendant.

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