$ 230 Million Settlement Reached for 2015 California Oil Spill

$ 230 Million Settlement Reached for 2015 California Oil Spill

The owner of an oil pipeline that spilled thousands of barrels of crude oil on the beaches of Southern California in 2015, agreed to pay $ 230 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed by fishermen and property owners, according to court documents.

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 Friday, according to court documents.


The company did not recognize responsibility in the agreement, which follows seven years of legal dispute. The agreement has yet to be submitted to a public comment period and requires federal court approval. The hearing on the subject is scheduled for June 10.

FILE – Workers prepare for an oil spill on Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, California, on May 21, 2015. (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong, Archive) ((AP Photo / Jae C. Hong, Archive) / AP Newsroom)

“This arrangement should be a reminder that pollution can not be a business cost and that companies will be held accountable for the environmental damage they cause,” said Matthew Preusch, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

Plains All American Pipeline officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press on Saturday.

On May 19, 2015, oil spilled from an eroded 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.


It was the worst oil spill in California since 1969 and blackened popular beaches for miles, killing or trapping hundreds of seabirds, seals and other wildlife, and hurting tourism and fishing.

A federal investigation said 123,000 gallons were spilled, but other estimates by liquid engineering experts reached 630,000 gallons.

ARCHIVE – An oil-covered bird flutters its wings at Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, California, on May 21, 2015. (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong, Archive) (. (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong, Archive) / AP Newsroom)

Federal inspectors found that Plains had made several mistakes that could have been avoided, failed to quickly detect the rupture of the pipeline, and reacted very slowly as the oil flowed into the ocean.

Plains operators working from a Texas control room more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) had deactivated a leak alarm and, unaware that a leak had occurred, restarted the bleeding line after it had closed, which made things worse, inspectors found.


Plains apologized for the leak and paid for the cleanup. The company’s annual report for 2017 estimated the cost of the leak at $ 335 million, not including lost revenue. The company also revised its plans to deal with land pipeline leaks.

FILE – Workers monitor the site where an underground oil pipeline broke the previous day near Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, California, May 20, 2015. (AP Photo / Michael A. Mariant, Archive) ((AP Photo / Michael A. Mariant, Archive) / AP Newsroom)

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

The leak crippled the local oil company because the pipeline was used to transport crude to refineries from seven offshore platforms, including three owned by Exxon Mobil, which was dormant after the leak.


Plains has applied for a permit to build a new pipeline, but is facing a difficult battle.

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The emerging debate is unfolding amid the global climate crisis as California moves to ban gas-powered vehicles and oil drilling, and record gas prices have left consumers with a sticky shock on pumps.

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

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