Oil Company Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor Negligence in 2021 Southern California Spill

By John Fredricks
John Fredricks
John Fredricks
John Fredricks is a California-based journalist for The Epoch Times. His reportage and photojournalism features have been published in a variety of award-winning publications around the world.
September 8, 2022 Updated: September 12, 2022

SANTA ANA, Calif.—The company behind last year’s oil spill off the coast of Southern California pleaded guilty Sept. 8 to negligently discharging about 25,000 gallons of crude when its underwater pipeline ruptured, causing a temporary closure of beaches and fisheries.

In a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Amplify Energy and two of its subsidiaries—Beta Operating Co. and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Co.—pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge. U.S. District Judge David O. Carter sentenced the company to pay a $7.1 million fine and $5.8 million to reimburse the Coast Guard for expenses from the oil spill.

The companies will also spend four years on probation and will be required to make a series of operational changes, including improved training, installation of a new leak-detection system, and meeting notification requirements, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Epoch Times Photo
California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks about last years Huntington Beach oilsill investigation At the district attorney building in Santa Ana, Calif., on Sept. 8, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

“This is a historic and believed to be the largest state misdemeanor criminal file in Orange County history,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said at a press conference Wednesday.

Bonta and Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer filed a misdemeanor criminal complaint against Amplify Energy on Wednesday. The complaint accuses Amplify of water pollution and killing birds.

Amplify is expected to plead no contest on that case on Friday and pay a $4.9 million fine to the state and county.

“I want to make something very, very clear about the facts of this case; Amplify unequivocally hit the snooze button,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said to the media.

“They knew they had a leak [and] the system detected a leak and they shut down the pipeline and started up again. There were seven more instances where the alarm notified them that there was a leak,” he said. “They kept ignoring it. That is criminal.”

Epoch Times Photo
Photographic evidence of last years oilspill sits on display at the district attorney building in Santa Ana, Calif., on Sept. 8, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoc Times)

In addition to the fines and fees, companies behind the spill would also spend four years on probation and would be required to make a series of operational changes, including improved training, installation of a new leak-detection system and meeting notification requirements, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In a statement, Amplify President/CEO Martyn Willsher said the company has ensured from the start that it was “working cooperatively with the various agencies investigating this incident.”

“We believe this resolution, which is subject to court review and approval, reflects the commitments we made immediately following the incident to impacted parties and is in the best interest of Amplify and its stakeholders,” he said. “We are committed to safely operating in a way that ensures the protection of the environment and the surrounding communities.”

John Fredricks is a California-based journalist for The Epoch Times. His reportage and photojournalism features have been published in a variety of award-winning publications around the world.