United States Announces Payment of a $1.4 Million Penalty in Settlement of Claims for Violating Federal Leak Prevention Requirements at 21 New York City Area Gas Stations
Twenty-seven defendants in a federal civil environmental case have settled claims against them concerning violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at 21 gas stations that they have owned or operated in the metropolitan New York City area, including two facilities in New Jersey. The violations involve at least 112 underground storage tanks, which typically contain large quantities of gasoline and waste oil and can cause serious environmental damage if allowed to leak. The defendants have agreed to pay a $1.4 million civil penalty under RCRA and have undertaken compliance and remedial measures valued at $470,000.
The settlement agreement was announced by Benton J. Campbell, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George Pavlou, Acting Regional Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2.
The amended complaint alleges violations of RCRA against Citygas Gasoline Corp. and 26 related corporate entities (“Citygas Defendants”). According to the amended complaint, Gurmeet Singh Dhinsa was the sole shareholder of Citygas, the parent or holding corporation that oversaw the operation of more than 50 gas stations in the New York City metropolitan area, including the gas stations named in the amended complaint. Dhinsa was convicted after a jury trial in the Eastern District of New York in 1999 on numerous federal criminal charges, including racketeering, conspiracy, murder, obstruction of justice, mail fraud, and kidnaping stemming from the operation of a gasoline pump-rigging scheme. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.
As alleged in the amended complaint, the Citygas Defendants, as owners or operators of the underground storage tanks at the gas stations, failed to comply with RCRA’s requirements for (a) upgrading and maintaining corrosion protection on steel underground storage tanks; (b) conducting and maintaining leak detection prevention procedures; (c) properly closing out-of-service tanks and testing the surrounding area for possible leaks from the tanks; (d) registration of waste oil tanks; (e) financial responsibility for environmental cleanup and for compensating third parties for bodily injury and property damage caused by accidental releases from underground storage tanks; and (f) cooperating with EPA by providing information about their underground storage tanks. Compliance with these requirements is vital to ensure the integrity of tanks, to prevent the release of petroleum product to soil and groundwater, and to ensure that clean-up monies would be available in the event of an accidental release. According to the amended complaint, there have been petroleum releases from underground storage tanks at the Citygas Defendants’ facilities resulting in contamination at those facilities. Any necessary remaining cleanup of past petroleum releases is being performed under the oversight of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
As part of the settlement, the Citygas Defendants have agreed to pay a $1.4 million civil monetary penalty to the federal government. They have also undertaken measures valued at approximately $470,000 to come into compliance with RCRA. The Citygas Defendants, and one other related corporate entity, have also committed to remain in compliance in the future at the 14 gas stations that they continue to own and to submit regular reports to EPA to show that they are in compliance with release detection, cathodic protection, financial responsibility, and other RCRA requirements, and to demonstrate compliance with New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection corrective action plans for petroleum cleanup work. The settlement provides for penalties for noncompliance with these provisions.
This is the third settlement reached in this case. The first was settled by a consent judgment entered on May 19, 2006, and included compliance and reporting requirements and a civil monetary penalty of $100,000 for violations at a facility owned by Leggett Land LTD and operated by one of the Citygas Defendants. The second was settled by a consent judgment entered on February 20, 2009, and included compliance and reporting requirements and a civil monetary penalty of $325,000 for violations at three facilities owned by defendants related to the Sidney Esikoff Family Trust and operated by several of the Citygas Defendants.
“The defendants violated federal environmental laws which exposed the residents and environment of New York City to unacceptable risks,” stated United States Attorney Campbell. “The settlement agreement imposes substantial obligations on the defendants and serves as a deterrent to such actions in the future by these defendants and others who seek to evade their legal obligations.”
“Proper operation of underground systems helps prevent the harm that petroleum can cause to our land and water, so it’s critical that gas stations monitor their tanks for leaks,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Pavlou. “The cost of complying with leak detection rules may seem steep, but the failure to do so often results in a costlier fine.”
The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and is conditioned upon approval by the United States District Court before becoming final.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sandra L. Levy. EPA was represented by Assistant Regional Counsel Naomi Shapiro.
Entities Covered by the Consent Judgment:
Citygas Gasoline Corp.
Foster Realty Corp.
9702-9706 Foster Avenue LLC
Foster Operating Corp.
10 B. Street Realty Corp.
10-12 Bond Street, LLC
4090 Boston Road Corp.
4090 Boston Road LLC
Connor Gas (N.Y.) Inc.
4090 N.Y. Corp.
117-01 Springfield Blvd, LLC
Springfield Operating Corp.
117-01 N.Y. Corp.
1081 N.Y. Corp.
Quincy Gas (N.Y.) Inc.
Fulton Gas (N.Y.) Inc.
Flushing 168 Corp.
1981 N.Y. Corp.
110-18 Atlantic Avenue, LLC
73-12 Cooper Avenue, LLC
168-70 Flushing Avenue, LLC
100-07 Rockaway Boulevard, LLC
145-15 Rockaway Boulevard, LLC
20 Sheridan Boulevard, LLC
303-309 Tenth Avenue, LLC
2509 Victory Boulevard, LLC
Route 295 NJ, LLC
3023 Route 23, LLC
Facilities Covered by the Consent Judgment:
9702-9706 Foster Avenue, Brooklyn, New York
10-12 Bond Street, New York, New York
4090 Boston Road, Bronx, New York
117-01 Springfield Boulevard, Cambria Heights, New York
94-02 111th Street, Richmond Hill, New York
65-20 Cooper Avenue, Glendale, New York
168-Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn, New York
100-07 Rockaway Boulevard, Ozone Park, New York
145-15 Rockaway Boulevard, Ozone Park, New York
20 Sheridan Boulevard, Inwood, New York
303-309 Tenth Avenue, New York, New York
2509 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island, New York
185 Straughns Mill Road, Pedricktown, New Jersey
3023 Route 23, West Milford, New Jersey
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