By Joshua Molina,
Noozhawk Staff Writer
Plains All American Pipeline must pay $60 million in financial penalties and implement new safeguards, according to a settlement reached between the company and the U.S. Justice Department.
Plains’ Line 901, which runs along the Gaviota Coast in southern Santa Barbara County, ruptured on May 19, 2015, and spilled about 142,000 gallons of crude oil onto the shoreline and into the ocean.
According to the Justice Department, the discharge was caused by Plains’ failure to address external corrosion and have adequate control-room procedures in place and was further exacerbated by Plains’ failure to respond properly.
“Today’s settlement shows federal and local governments working in partnership to hold industry fairly accountable,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Gelber of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The agreement will also promote public health and safety, and protect the environment for local communities.”
The settlement requires Plains to pay $24 million in penalties, $22.3 million in natural resource damages, $10 million for reimbursed natural resource damage assessment costs and $4.26 million for reimbursed Coast Guard cleanup costs. Excluding the value of the required injunctive relief changes to Plains’ national operations, the settlement in conjunction with reimbursed costs is valued in excess of $60 million.
The discharge resulted in the oiling of Refugio State Beach, the Pacific Ocean, and other shorelines and beaches, resulted in beach and fishing closures, and adversely impacted natural resources such as birds, fish, marine mammals, and shoreline and subtidal habitat, according to the Justice Department. The federal government worked with the State of California to reach the settlement.
“This case is a classic example of why the Clean Water Act authorizes penalties for harmful oil discharges,” said Susan Bodine, Environmental Protection Agency assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “With this settlement, EPA, along with its federal and state partners, is holding Plains accountable for the damage they caused to natural resources.”
“We are pleased to join this agreement with industry and our co-trustees to help restore vital habitats, wildlife and recreational areas injured by this oil spill,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “Local communities and economies depend on these ecosystems, and we look forward to working with the public on projects to restore them to health.”
A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge in 2019 ordered Plains All American Pipeline to pay a $3.3 million criminal fine for the Refugio oil spill.