August 24, 2009
In a coordinated effort, the California attorney general and eight district attorney brought action against U-Haul, resulting in an agreement by the rental company to improve the way it handles hazardous materials.
As part of the agreement, U-Haul will pay $2 million in fines and penalties.
"U-Haul has turned a blind eye to California's hazardous materials laws for years, even after an explosion and fire severely damaged one of its facilities," said California Attorney General Jerry Brown. "This agreement forces U-Haul to clean up its act and improve the way it handles hazardous materials, plans for emergencies and trains employees."
U-Haul's hazardous materials practices first came under scrutiny in November 2004, following an explosion and two-alarm fire at a Santa Rosa facility, which resulted in flash burns to an employee.
The emergency response team that arrived on the scene had difficulty assessing the situation due to the lack of information about stored hazardous materials. The facility had no site map indicating where hazardous materials were stored as required by law, and employees had failed to properly label flammable materials including gasoline. The building was damaged in the fire and ultimately closed.
Subsequently, the Attorney General's office and 8 District Attorneys launched a 2-year statewide investigation into U-Haul's handling of hazardous materials and training of employees. Brown said the investigation revealed violations at virtually all of U-Haul's 179 California regulated facilities. Despite being repeatedly notified of the violations, Brown said U-Haul did not address them.
The alleged violations include inadequate training regarding handling of hazardous materials and hazardous materials business plans; Improper storage of hazardous waste such as oil filters and pans, waste gasoline and car batteries; Improper transport of hazardous waste; and lack of statutorily mandated hazardous material business plans and emergency response plans.
The Attorney General's office, joined by the District Attorneys of Sonoma, Alameda, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Riverside, filed suit on July 27, 2006, seeking penalties and a permanent injunction to enforce compliance with hazardous materials and hazardous waste laws.