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Busted! Pipeline Owners Face Negligent Conduct Charges
Amplify Energy Illegally Discharged Oil & Now Faces The Consequences
Just before the end of 2021, and nearly three months after a pipeline spilled thousands of gallons of crude oil into Southern California’s waters, authorities announced that coastal cleanup efforts are complete.
"In a year that has been filled with incredibly challenging issues, this oil spill constitutes one of the most devastating situations that our community has dealt with in decades," Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said at the time.
You can read our first story about the underwater pipeline and the need for better prevention and response plans here.
A big thanks to all the first responders, biologists, environmentalists, public safety professionals, assessment teams, and response workers. Oil spills impact people, wildlife, and the coastal environment.
Naughty & Negligent
The companies responsible for the large spill are now facing charges, as they should. I hope this trend continues in 2022 and beyond.
In mid-December, a federal grand jury accused three companies with illegally discharging oil during the pipeline breach in early October.
The charges say the companies acted negligently in at least six ways, including failing to properly respond to eight separate leak alarms during 13+-hour delay and improperly restarting the pipeline.
Other charges include:
Operating the pipeline with crew members who had not been sufficiently trained on the automated leak detection system; and
Operating the pipeline with an understaffed and fatigued crew.
C’mon, these businesses know better, and they need to do better.
The companies that own and operate the 17-mile-long San Pedro Bay Pipeline include: Amplify Energy Corp.; Beta Operating Co. LLC (a wholly owned subsidiary of Amplify doing business as Beta Offshore); and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Co. (a wholly owned subsidiary of Amplify).
The pipeline, which transfers crude oil from several offshore facilities to a processing plant in Long Beach, began leaking on the afternoon of October 1. An estimated 25,000 gallons of crude oil were discharged from a point about 5 miles west of Huntington Beach from a crack in the 16-inch pipeline.
The spill sparked renewed conversation for officials to take more aggressive action against the aging oil platforms that dot the state's coast.
"There was, I think, a dramatic understanding by those who might not have been so aligned with the environmentalists as to the impacts of offshore oil drilling," Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, whose district includes Huntington Beach said. "It's impactful to the economy, impactful to the environment, to the coast—to our lives in general. I think all those factors combining together really hit people hard this time, more so than in the past."
NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) is tasked with responding to oil spills, chemical accidents, and other emergencies in coastal areas.
In 2021, OR&R worked to recover more than $131 million from polluters at 10 contaminated waterways in six coastal states. This funding goes to help restore marine environments and communities damaged from oil spills and hazardous waste pollution.
I applaud their efforts and remind us all that taxpayers should not have to bear the brunt of private companies’ wrongdoings.
Oil spills pollute our land, air, and water. Companies that operate pipelines need to plan ahead for any possible leaks and tears. Safety should be their #1 priority, both for their employees and for our planet.
“I am outraged by the complete and utter failure of Amplify Energy to do their job,” Laguna Beach Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris told the Los Angeles Times. “Their absolute negligence caused devastation in our coastal community. This was not a freak incident—someone here is to blame, and justice will be served.”
The charge of negligently discharging oil is a misdemeanor and carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years of probation for a corporate defendant, as well as fines that potentially could total millions of dollars.