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 SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois attorney general reached a tentative settlement Friday over spills linked to an oil company owned by an embattled Illinois State University trustee.

Petco Petroleum Corp., owned by Jay Bergman, has agreed to pay $135,000 in penalties over allegations it spilled 1,100 barrels of saltwater and 20 barrels of crude oil since 2004.

"Petco Petroleum must clean up its act in Illinois," Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a press release. "This series of spills and incidents is unacceptable."

The state's largest independent oil producer has 30 days to pay the fine, if the settlement is approved by the Illinois Pollution Control Board. The agreement doesn't require the company to admit guilt.

"We settled without admitting liability for a price that was less than it would have cost us to put on a full-blown legal defense," Bergman said. "It's a win-win situation for us and the state."

The state estimates that saltwater spills leaking into nearby streams at some Petco sites in Fayette and Jefferson counties have killed more than 2,000 fish. The company, which has 1,400 oil wells in Illinois, injects saltwater into wells to help get crude oil out of the ground.

Under the agreement, the company also must continue cleanup efforts and upgrade equipment that may have contributed to the spills.

Bergman has been hounded over the pollution allegations by the Student Action Environmental Coalition, which has been calling for his removal. The group recently delivered a 1,100-signature petition calling for Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fire the trustee.

Bergman said he didn't know how Friday's announcement would help him with this problem. Bergman's term expired in January, but he continues to serve on the board until the governor chooses to keep him or appoint a replacement.

Rebecca Rausch, a Blagojevich spokeswoman, said the governor will not make a decision until the pollution board makes a ruling.


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