Judge orders Tesoro to pay outstanding water bills or stop pumping groundwater
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ralph W. Dau ruled in favor of an injunction against Texas oil giant, Tesoro Corp., filed by the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD). WRD filed the injunction to stop Tesoro from pumping groundwater because the company has not paid its monthly replenishment assessment (RA) since May 2012 and owes more than $900,000, funds which are crucial to WRD's ability to provide safe and reliable water to the public.
Judge Dau's approval of the injunction requires Tesoro to pay its outstanding bills to WRD within 10 days or discontinue pumping groundwater it uses for its plant operations. WRD, area groundwater pumpers and ratepayers applaud the judge's decision as a ruling that protects the long-term health of the region's groundwater basins.
Tesoro tried to convince the court that a previous ruling by another judge invalidated WRD's RAs and therefore Tesoro was not obligated to pay the RA. Judge Dau dismissed this claim by noting:
"Tesoro's argument that rulings by another judge of this court have established the invalidity of WRD's RAs for the water years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 is unavailing. Those rulings have not been reduced to final judgments, and no writs have issued in those proceedings. Tesoro's contention that in other cases a judge of this court denied the kind of interim relief sought here by WRD does not help its cause. Those rulings are the subject of an appeal."
Dau's ruling marks the second legal setback for Tesoro, which sued WRD alleging financial damages. Last month in a ruling from the bench, Judge Robert O'Brien dismissed claims for damages, pointing out that no "damages" can exist since Tesoro refused to pay for the groundwater. Both rulings come at a time when Tesoro is attempting to get California's support for its purchase of BP's oil refinery in the city of Carson, which would expand Tesoro's groundwater pumping rights.