An oil pipeline company and an employee have been indicted on a total of 46 counts for a May 2015 crude oil spill near Santa Barbara.
Plains All American Pipeline, L.P., said the oil spill made up 10 counts in the indictment, while the other 36 related to wildlife damaged as a result of the accident.
An onshore pipe, operated by Texas-based Plains, ruptured at Refugio State Beach on May 19, 2015. The break flooded the area with 100,000 gallons of crude oil; 21,000 gallons of which ended up in the ocean. More than a 9-mile slick coated birds, killed sea life, and blackened pristine beaches.
After the incident, it was revealed that Plains has the fifth-worst safety and maintenance record out of the 1,700-plus U.S. operators. The burst occurred on a line that was 28 years old.
Plains had said in a prior statement that it was “deeply disappointed” the criminal charges went ahead.
“Plains believes that neither the company nor any of its employees engaged in any criminal behavior at any time in connection with this accident, and that criminal charges are unwarranted. We will vigorously defend ourselves against these charges and are confident we will demonstrate that the charges have no merit and represent an inappropriate attempt to criminalize an unfortunate accident,” the company said in a statement.
Plains says it has worked “tirelessly and relentlessly” since the accidental release of the crude oil, and states it has been “compensating those who were impacted by the release” and “working with the various governmental and other organizations responding to the incident.”
According to the Los Angeles Times citing prosecutors, Plains faces up to $2.8 million in fines, plus additional costs and penalties.
“This is the first step in holding Plains accountable and we are committed to putting all the resources that are necessary into seeing this case through,” said Attorney General Kamala Harris during a press conference, according to the Times. “In this state we value our environment, we value our pristine coastal communities, we value the precious wildlife and the oceans that we are proud to call a big part of California. Anyone that violates the law … is going to be held accountable.”