Magistrate rules against church built on superfund site in Bristow

Five years after the Bristow Assembly of God was forced to move because its church was built atop a former refinery that became an EPA Superfund site, the church is still fighting in court. But it has experienced at least one setback.

A Tulsa Federal Court Judge recently granted a protective order to the oil company sued by the church, an order protecting the company from the church’s attorneys from prying too deeply about its operations.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Frank H. McCarthy granted the order to Marathon Petroleum Corporation and Marathon Oil Corporation, both sued in Case No. 15-CV-523 in Tulsa federal court. The two operated a refinery and tank farm decades ago before the church was guilt on adjacent property. The refinery and tank farm were the Wilcox Refinery and also known as the Wilcox/Lorraine Refinery. Marathon Oil owned the operations from 1930 to the fall of 1936. The Ohio Oil Company also owned operations from 1927 to 1938 before it became Marathon. Transcontinental Oil Company also owned operations at the site from 1927 to 1930 before it became Marathon Oil.

At the heart of the ruling was the church’s efforts to learn more about the Transcontinental site. Marathon sought the court order to allow the scope of the inquiry only to the Wilcox Refinery and prohibiting inquiries related to the Transcontinental Refinery or the Transcontinental Site.

The oil company contended that the claims made by the church allegedly happened within boundaries of the Wilcox Refinery.

Magistrate Judge McCarthy agreed with the oil company’s contentions that the legal description of the Wilcox Refinery involved about 113 acres in Section 29 in Creek County while the legal description of the Transcontinental Refinery put it in Section 20. Marathon attorneys argued the complaint by the church “only contains allegations that pertain to operation of the refinery and tank farms on the lands that now belong to Plaintiffs.”

“The court finds that the allegations contained in the Amended Complaint pertain solely to the operation of the Wilcox Refinery and tank farm. In view of that finding, the court further finds that the requested discovery about the Transcontinental Refinery is not relevant to the claims and defenses at issue in this case. As a result, the Motion for Protective Order is granted as to any areas of testimony about the Transcontinental Refinery or Transcontinental Site,” wrote the judge.

Tulsa U.S.District Court Judge Terence Kern has set a trial date of August 2020.


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