Plains All American Pipeline facing criminal charges in connecti - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Plains All American Pipeline facing criminal charges in connection to oil spill

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Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley and California Attorney General Kamala Harris held a joint press conference in Santa Barbara Tuesday morning to announce a grand jury indictment against Plains All American Pipeline in connection to last year's oil spill at Refugio State Beach.

On May 19, 2015, a ruptured pipeline belonging to Plains All American spilled approximately 140,000 gallons of oil, much of it flowing to the ocean. The spill was blamed for the deaths of more than 100 marine mammals and nearly 200 birds.

Plains All American faces 46 criminal charges, including four felony charges of knowingly discharging a pollutant into state waters and 42 misdemeanor charges, including failure to notify the proper authorities and numerous Fish and Wildlife code violations.

James Buchanan, Environmental and Regulatory Compliance Specialist for Plains All American, was also indicted on some of those charges.

Dudley described Plains All American's actions as "negligent."

When asked if she could describe that negligence, Dudley said quote "I can with one word: criminal."

The indictment comes after a joint investigation by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office, and State Attorney General's Office. 

"Any company that is operating in our state and transporting crude oil, and doing it in a way that is irresponsible and in violation of the law, will be held accountable," Harris said."

"In terms of the criminal prosecution," Dudley said, "did I find Plains All American to be cooperative? No."

"We'll see if their cooperation and performance in this process improves," Harris said. "But it's been quite disappointing. And this is the first step in this process of eventually, we believe, holding these defendants accountable. And making sure that they receive swift and hopefully severe penalties."

Plains All American released a statement Tuesday morning in response to the charges, saying, in part, "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." 

To read the full statement, click here.

Plains All American representatives, as well as Buchanan, are scheduled for a Superior Court arraignment in Santa Barbara on June 2.

Harris said she believes there will be a settlement between $1 million and $2.8 million.

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