November 22, 2023
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Trucker, employer settle cases over 2020 Santa Maria oil spill


About 4,500 gallons of oil spilled into the Cuyama River when this tanker rolled over in 2020 (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

Santa Barbara County prosecutors have settled criminal and civil cases against the trucker and trucking company responsible for a March 2020 oil spill outside of Santa Maria.

Jesse Villasana was driving an oil tanker truck for Golden Valley Transfer on March 21, 2020, on his way from Bakersfield to Santa Maria, when the tanker detached and rolled down an embankment into the Cuyama River. More than 4,500 gallons of oil were spilled, according to a Jan. 24 release from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.

Villasana pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for unlawfully depositing oil into a waterway of the state, and to a violating for driving at an unsafe speed. He was sentenced to one year of probation, 20 hours of community service and a $515 fine, according to the District Attorney’s Office news release.

The company that employed him, Golden Valley Transfer, cooperated with the investigation and has already reimbursed the California Department of Fish & Wildlife for $314,320 in costs to clean up the spill. In settling the case, the company also agreed to pay an additional $200,000 in remediation and civil penalties.

Golden Valley Transfer also agreed to provide its drivers with “the technological means to immediately report crude oil or hazardous materials releases” when they are driving in areas without cell phone service, the District Attorney’s Office said.