SPRINGFIELD | Attorney General Lisa Madigan is sharply criticizing an oil company owned by an appointee of Gov. Pat Quinn, saying the firm is “the worst polluter in the field of Illinois oil production.”
Her comment, contained in a news release issued late Thursday, came as she announced a 61-count complaint with the Illinois Pollution Control Board for water pollution violations against Petco Petroleum Corp., which is owned by Jay Bergman.
Bergman, of Hinsdale, is a member of the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Illinois State University Board of Trustees and has contributed more than $154,000 to Republicans and Democrats — including Quinn — over the past decade.
In her complaint, Madigan alleges Petco Petroleum repeatedly failed to maintain and upgrade its wells and drilling equipment to prevent spills onto the ground and into waterways. The complaint documents 61 counts of water pollution violations over the past four years due to recurring oil spills and salt water brine releases at the company’s wells near St. Elmo in Fayette County.
The complaint seeks a ruling from the board requiring Petco to pay civil penalties that will deter future spills.
“Petco Petroleum’s record demonstrates that it has repeatedly violated the state’s environmental laws,” Madigan said. “The company must pay for its pollution and be required to take preventative steps.”
Attempts to reach Bergman through his company and through ISU were unsuccessful Friday.
Quinn’s office had no immediate response to the allegations.
It’s not the first run-in the company has had with environmental regulators.
Petco, which is authorized to operate approximately 1,200 oil wells and 400 injection wells, was found guilty of violating the Illinois Environmental Protection Act in 1999 and ordered to pay civil penalties and attorney’s fees and to submit a preventive maintenance plan.
In 2005, an enforcement action was filed under the Illinois Oil and Gas Act in Sangamon County Circuit Court for 168 spills. In 2006, the IPCB imposed civil penalties and ordered the company to cease and desist from violating the Environmental Protection Act. In all, more than $350,000 in civil penalties have been imposed on the company, Madigan noted.
Those past incidents have led to criticism of Bergman on the ISU campus.
When Bergman was first appointed to the board by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, students angered by his company’s environmental record collected signatures aimed at removing him from the board.
Members of the ISU Student Environmental Action Coalition again expressed frustration when Blagojevich reappointed Bergman to the board in 2006.
Zoology Professor Angelo Capparella, who advises SEAC, called the latest action against Bergman’s company an “embarrassment” for the university.
“What kind of example does this set for our students?” Capparella said Friday.
Bergman currently is the longest serving member of the board of trustees. His term expires in 2017.
Quinn appointed Bergman to the Illinois Board of Higher Education in May 2011. His term ends in 2017.
Under state law, many state boards must have a specific number of Republicans and Democrats. On the ISU board, Bergman is listed as one of the Republican members. But, on the board of higher education, Bergman is listed as an independent.