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

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- 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. The company has already paid to clean up that spill. This money will instead go toward the state Department of Conservation's work of plugging old and orphaned wells.

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 (3 million litres) of oil and water into a canyon in Kern County, the home of the state's oil industry.

Also, Chevron agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine for more than 70 smaller spills between 2018 and 2023. These accounted for more than 446,000 gallons (1.6 million litres) of oil spilled and more than 1.48 million gallons (5.6 million litres) of water that killed or injured at least 63 animals and impacted at least 6 acres (2.4 hectares) of salt brush and grassland habitat, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention and Response.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and to help respond to future oil spills.

"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.

Chevron did not immediately respond to a request for comment.