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Judge orders Plains All American Pipeline to pay millions for Central Coast oil spill

Posted at 5:42 PM, Apr 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-25 20:54:12-04

At a sentencing hearing Thursday, a Santa Barbara judge ordered Plains All American Pipeline to pay millions for a Santa Barbara County oil spill nearly four years ago.

The Texas oil company was sentenced to pay $3,342,500 in fines and penalties.

Plains All American was found guilty last September of one felony and eight misdemeanors for the incident that spilled approximately 140,000 gallons of crude oil near Refugio State Beach on May 19, 2015.

Linda Krop, Chief Counsel for the Environmental Defense Center, testified at the hearing on Thursday. She said Judge James Harmon felt this fine was the maximum amount that he could levy in this case under current state law. She said the judge stated in court that the indictment and conviction in this case surrounded the events on that fateful day, not what led up to the incident.

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office asked for a $1.2 billion fine at the hearing.

“It was disheartening to hear all the evidence again that this spill could have been prevented. I do not think that this fine is going to be effective to ensure this doesn’t happen again. To them (Plains All American) this just isn’t that much money,” Krop said.

A large amount of the spilled oil went into the ocean when the onshore pipeline ruptured. Official clean up efforts took months and hundreds of birds and marine mammals died in the spill.

In a statement sent to KSBY News following the sentencing hearing Thursday, Plains’ Director of Communications and Government Relations Brad Leone said, “We take our responsibility to safely deliver energy resources very seriously, and we are committed to doing the right thing. We are sorry that this release happened, and we have and will continue to work hard to re-earn the trust of area residents.”

The criminal case is not over. On July 10, a restitution hearing for victims will take place. Krop says additional fines could be ordered. There are also multiple civil lawsuits pending over the oil spill.