SAN FRANCISCO -- The regional agency responsible for protecting air quality in the Bay Area has reached an agreement with Tesoro on a $285,000 civil penalty in response to an air quality violation at the company's Golden Eagle Refinery in Pacheco.

The settlement between Tesoro and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District follows a water vapor leak discovered at a cooling tower at the refinery in September 2010, according to a release issued Friday by the agency.

The leak continued for at least 13 days and caused an estimated 52 tons of hydrocarbon emissions, officials said.

Corroded tubing allowed organic compounds to enter the cooling system water and be emitted from the cooling tower. Tesoro missed early indications that a leak was occurring.

In response to the leak, Tesoro conducted an investigation and repaired the equipment. It also took steps to increase oversight of its cooling water system contractors and drafted a new procedural plan for operating the system.

The settlement money will be used to pay for air district activities such as inspection and enforcement work.

"Bay Area refineries will be held responsible for any violations of air quality regulations," said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the district. "The air district has a responsibility to ensure that the company complies with all air quality regulations and makes the necessary changes to ensure that violations don't reoccur."


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Tesoro spokeswoman Tina Barbee said the company will pay a penalty for the "alleged violations, with no admission of liability."

"Tesoro takes compliance with environmental regulations seriously and strives to comply at all times," Barbee said in a statement. "We responded quickly to the cited incidents once they were identified, and have taken corrective measures to avoid their recurrence. Since 2010, we've invested more than $4 million in repairs and improvements to ensure an event of this nature does not occur again."

Barbee added that the company looks forward to continued operation at the refinery while in compliance with its permits and the district's guidelines.

Staff writer Katie Nelson contributed to this report. Follow Natalie Alund at Twitter.com/nataliealund.