Dec 16, 2021 - Energy & Environment

3 companies charged with negligence in Southern California oil spill

Photo: Sefa Degirmenci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Three companies face federal charges for an October oil spill off Southern California's coast, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: A grand jury alleges the companies acted negligently and illegally discharged oil from a pipeline off of Huntington Beach.

  • Roughly 25,000 gallons of crude oil flowed into the ocean, reaching Southern California beaches and killing wildlife in what Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr called an "environmental catastrophe."

Details: Amplify Energy Corp. and two wholly owned subsidiary firms, Beta Operating Co. LLC and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Co., face a misdemeanor count of negligent discharge of oil.

  • Prosecutors say the companies acted negligently on at least six instances, including failure to properly respond to eight alarms that alerted operators to a leak beginning on on Oct. 1.
  • Operators shut down and restarted the pipeline five times after the first five alarms were triggered, "resulting in oil flowing through the damaged pipeline for a cumulative period of more than three hours," prosecutors said.
  • Prosecutors also alleged that the companies employed an "understaffed and fatigued crew" who had "not been sufficiently trained on the automated leak detection system," according to a Justice Department statement.

What they're saying: Amplify Energy workers had believed the detection system had triggered false alarms and were trying to troubleshoot the system, company spokesperson Amy Conway told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

  • "Had the crew known there was an actual oil spill in the water, they would have shut down the pipeline immediately," Conway said.
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