$230M settlement reached over 2015 California oil spill

AP

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The owner of an oil pipeline that spewed thousands of barrels of crude oil to the shores of southern California in 2015 has agreed to pay $ 230 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by fishermen and property owners, court documents show.

The Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline agreed to pay $ 184 million to fishermen and fish processors and $ 46 million to coastal property owners in the settlement reached on Friday, according to court documents.

The company did not admit liability in the agreement, which follows seven years of legal dispute. The agreement must still undergo a public comment period and needs federal court approval. A hearing in the case is scheduled for June 10.

“This settlement should serve as a reminder that pollution simply cannot be a cost to doing business, and that companies will be held accountable for the environmental damage they cause,” said Matthew Preusch, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs.

Plains All American Pipeline officials did not immediately return a statement from the Associated Press on Saturday for comment.

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On May 19, 2015, oil spilled from a corroded pipeline north of Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles, and spread along the coasts of Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties.

It was the worst oil spill off the coast of California since 1969 and it blackened popular beaches for several kilometers, killing or polluting hundreds of seabirds, seals and other wildlife and damaging tourism and fishing.

A federal investigation said 123,000 gallons were spilled, but other estimates from fluid mechanics experts were as high as 630,000 gallons.

Federal inspectors found that the Plains had made several preventable errors, failed to quickly detect the pipeline’s fault and responded too slowly when oil flowed toward the ocean.

Plain operators operating from a control room in Texas more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away had turned off an alarm that would have signaled a leak and, unaware that a spill had occurred, restarted the bleeding line after it was turned off. , which only did things. worse found inspectors.

Plains apologized for the spill and paid for the cleanup. The company’s annual report for 2017 estimated the cost of the release at $ 335 million, excluding lost revenue. The company also revised its plans to manage discharges of onshore pipelines.

In 2020, Plains agreed to pay $ 60 million to the federal government to resolve allegations that it violated security laws. It also agreed to bring its nationwide pipeline system into line with federal safety laws.

The spill paralyzed local oil operations as the pipeline was used to transport crude oil to refineries from seven offshore rigs, including three owned by Exxon Mobil, which has been at a standstill since the spill.

Plains has applied for permission to build a new pipeline, but it is facing an uphill battle.

The emerging debate is taking place in the midst of the global climate crisis and when California is moving towards banning gas-powered vehicles and oil drilling, while record-breaking gas prices have left consumers with stickers at the pumps.

A complex environmental review of the pipeline plan is not expected until October.

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