Oil giants sell thousands of California wells, raising worries about future liability
By Sarah N. Lynch
With their shiny aluminum bodies and gleaming silver exhaust pipes, refineries belch out more than 3,000 gallons of hydrocarbon emissions each day into the atmosphere, including the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.
They are the largest polluters in California, emitting 1,200 times more greenhouse gases than all the plants and industries in the country other than the average American, according to federal government data. And in response to a wave of lawsuits threatening $22 billion in judgments, they are selling thousands of oil wells to the highest bidders, a practice known as “padming” and raising new questions about liability.
And that means that, just like the oil wells, the refineries will be built somewhere else.
The oil companies that built the San Onofre nuclear power plant in Santanard are suing the state now, for not issuing permits for the new plant. If Santa Rosa wins its case, it will block construction of the plant entirely.
Those same oil companies building the refineries aren’t only building some of the largest polluters outside California. They’re also the nation’s top purchasers at the top oil companies.
The nation’s largest energy conglomerates are purchasing more than 90 percent of production from each of the nation’s four major oil companies — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Exxon — according to the Energy Information Administration.
Some are even buying more of the big oil companies than they consume from them.
That’s the case with Conoco, the nation’s number one purchaser at ExxonMobil, according to the Energy Information Administration. The company has bought more than 90 percent of ExxonMobil’s production over the last five years, more than double the amount of production it consumes at the company.
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