$230 million settlement reached for 2015 California oil spill

The owner of a pipeline that dumped thousands of barrels of crude oil on Southern California beaches in 2015 has agreed to pay $230 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by fishermen and landowners, according to reports. court documents.

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

The company has not admitted responsibility for the deal, which follows seven years of legal wrangling. The agreement is still subject to a public comment period and must be approved by the Federal Court. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for June 10.

“This regulation should remind us that pollution simply cannot be a cost of doing business and that companies will be held liable for the environmental damage they cause,” said Matthew Preusch, one of the lawyers who represented the companies. complainants.

An oil-covered bird flaps its wings in the middle of Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, California on May 21, 2015.

Plains All American Pipeline officials did not immediately return a message Saturday from The Associated Press seeking comment.

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

It was California’s worst coastal oil spill since 1969 and blackened popular beaches for miles, killing or fouling hundreds of seabirds, seals and other wildlife and harming tourism and tourism. the Peach.

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

Federal inspectors found Plains made several preventable mistakes, failed to detect the pipeline rupture early, and reacted too slowly as the oil leaked to the ocean.

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

Plains apologized for the spill and paid for the cleanup. The company’s 2017 annual report estimated the costs of the spill at $335 million, not including lost revenue. The company has also revised its plans to deal with spills from onshore pipelines.

Workers survey the site where an underground oil pipe broke the day before near Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, California May 20, 2015, polluting beaches and killing hundreds of birds and sea mammals.

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

The spill crippled local oil business as the pipeline was used to transport crude to refineries from seven offshore platforms, including three belonging to Exxon Mobil, which have been inactive since the spill.

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

The emerging debate is unfolding amid the global climate crisis and as California moves toward banning gasoline-powered vehicles and oil drilling, while record gasoline prices have left consumers reeling from stickers at the pump.

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

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