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Brown and 8 District Attorneys Force U-Haul to Improve Handling of Hazardous Materials

Friday, August 21, 2009
Contact: (415) 703-5837

Oakland – Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and eight District Attorneys today reached an agreement requiring U-Haul Company of California to “clean up its act” and improve the way it handles and disposes of hazardous materials at its 179 regulated facilities throughout the state.

“U-Haul has turned a blind eye to California’s hazardous materials laws for years, even after an explosion and fire severely damaged one of its facilities,” Brown said. “This agreement forces U-Haul to clean up its act and improve the way it handles hazardous materials, plans for emergencies and trains employees.”

U-Haul’s hazardous materials practices first came under scrutiny in November 2004, following an explosion and two-alarm fire at a Santa Rosa facility, which resulted in flash burns to an employee.

The emergency response team that arrived on the scene had difficulty assessing the situation due to the lack of information about stored hazardous materials. The facility had no site map indicating where hazardous materials were stored as required by law, and employees had failed to properly label flammable materials including gasoline. The building was damaged in the fire and ultimately closed.

Subsequently, the Attorney General’s office and 8 District Attorneys launched a 2-year statewide investigation into U-Haul’s handling of hazardous materials and training of employees. The investigation revealed violations at virtually all of U-Haul’s 179 California regulated facilities. Despite being repeatedly notified of the violations, U-Haul did not address them.

Such violations include:

• Inadequate training regarding handling of hazardous materials and hazardous materials business plans;
• Improper storage of hazardous waste such as oil filters and pans, waste gasoline and car batteries;
• Improper transport of hazardous waste; and
• Lack of statutorily mandated hazardous material business plans and emergency response plans.

The Attorney General’s office, joined by the District Attorneys of Sonoma, Alameda, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Riverside, filed suit on July 27, 2006, seeking penalties and a permanent injunction to enforce compliance with hazardous materials and hazardous waste laws.

Today’s agreement resolves the lawsuit and requires U-Haul to:
• Complete and maintain statutorily mandated hazardous material business plans and emergency response plans for regulated facilities;
• Train its employees how to properly handle hazardous materials;
• Retain an environmental coordinator who will oversee, monitor and submit annual reports on the company’s compliance;
• Inspect hazardous waste storage areas at regulated facilities on a weekly basis;
• Properly transport hazardous waste; and
• Pay $2 million in costs and penalties.

This settlement, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, is attached.

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