Plains All American Pipeline Convicted in 2015 California Oil Spill

September 7, 2018 Updated: September 8, 2018

A California state jury on Sept. 7 found Plains All American Pipeline guilty of criminally fouling state waters or harming wildlife in a 2015 oil spill along the Pacific Coast.

The jury found Plains guilty of one felony count and eight misdemeanors, Santa Barbara County Chief Deputy District Attorney John Savrnoch said. The jury was either unable to reach a decision or found the company not guilty on two other felony counts and several other charges.

A pelican covered in oil is seen along the coast of Refugio State Beach in Goleta, California, United States, May 20, 2015. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Plains said its operation of the pipeline exceeded legal and industry standards. It said it plans to evaluate legal options, including an appeal.

“The verdict reflected no knowing wrongdoing by Plains or our employees,” the company said in a statement. “We believe the jury erred in its verdict on one count where applicable California laws allowed a conviction under a negligence standard.”

The Houston-based company was charged over a May 2015 pipeline rupture that spilled more than 140,000 gallons of crude oil near Refugio State Beach and into the waters of the Gaviota Coast.

A felony conviction for fouling state waters carries a fine of about $1.5 million. The state may oppose any request for a new trial and may retry the company on those counts that the jury could not reach a decision, Savrnoch said.

By Gary McWilliams

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