The Texas company that operates the pipeline that caused a massive oil spill in Huntington Beach waters agreed not to plead a contest to introduce environmental taxes and pay nearly $5 million in fines and penalties, prosecutors said Thursday. familiar.
Orange County and prosecutors this week charged Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp. and two subsidiaries – Beta Operating Co. and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Co. – sued for fouling offenses and failing to immediately report last fall’s oil spill into state waters to the Bureau of Emergency Services.
The companies were also charged with four offenses for taking two brown pelicans, which are protected birds, and taking two non-feral migratory birds, a grebe and a Brandt’s cormorant, according to a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court.
The plea deal has yet to be approved by a judge. Authorities expect Judge Larry Yellin to consider it during a hearing.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said at a news conference Thursday in Santa Ana that the plea deal reached with the company is considered the largest criminal fine for state crimes in Orange County history.
“While the exact cost of the spill is still unknown, today’s announcement marks an important step toward liability,” Bonta said.
As a result of the agreement with prosecutors, Amplify Energy must install a new leak detection system in the pipeline and implement training of new employees to notify regulators of any leak detection alarms to prevent future leaks. The company will be on a one-year probationary period, Bonta said.
Amplify President and Chief Executive Martyn Willsher said in a prepared statement that the agreement “further reflects the commitments we made immediately following the incident.”
Amplify has worked “diligently” to address the aftermath of the spill, including sending more than 1,800 contractors to assist with cleanup and environmental remediation and paying “covered claims as quickly as possible,” Willsher said.
The news comes nearly two weeks after Amplify Energy and its subsidiaries agreed to plead guilty to federal environmental charges and pay nearly $13 million in connection with the oil spill that sent at least 25,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean in a 14-hour period. . early October last year.
Despite hours-long signals that their 17.3-mile oil pipeline may be leaking, the companies continued to negligently pump crude oil into the waters around Huntington Beach, according to prosecutors.
The underwater pipeline, which runs between a production and processing platform and the Port of Long Beach, was operated by “an undermanned and fatigued crew” who “had not been adequately trained in the pipeline’s automated leak detection system,” according to a federal lawsuit filed. in Dec.
The oil spill took more than a week to clean up, disrupted activities along the coast and forced the cancellation of the Pacific Airshow in Huntington Beach, one of the city’s most popular annual events.
“It’s great that the prosecution of Clean Water Act violations is leading to better enforcement and environmental protection for our beautiful coast,” said Orange County supervisor Katrina Foley. “But we can’t just let it go. We have to make sure those pipes are cleaned up and removed.”
Last month, Amplify also tentatively agreed to settle more than a dozen lawsuits filed by business owners and residents who say they have been financially affected by the spill. The terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.
Willsher has said the company is still pursuing a lawsuit against the companies that own and operate two container ships accused of dragging their anchors across the seabed and damaging the pipeline months before the spill.
Pipeline operator reaches preliminary settlement in California oil spill lawsuits
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