A California jury found on Friday Plains All American Pipeline guilty on criminal charges over the 2015 oil spill near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County that saw more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil spilled and birds, fish, marine mammals, and other wildlife killed.
In May 2015, the Line 901 pipeline owned and operated by Plains All America Pipeline ruptured near Refugio State Beach, spilling more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil, much of which ran down a storm drain and into a ravine under the freeway, entering the Pacific Ocean.
After deliberating for six days, the jury returned on Friday guilty verdicts on nine counts, including a felony charge that the company knowingly engaged in, or caused, oil to spill in the Pacific Ocean. The other guilty verdicts were on misdemeanor counts, including one count of failing to make a timely call to emergency response agencies following the oil spill; six counts of killing marine mammals, protected sea birds, and other marine life; and one count of violating a county ordinance prohibiting oil spills.
Plains All American Pipeline faces monetary fines, but no jail time for any company representative.
The company faces at least US$1.5 million in penalties if the conviction is upheld, Reuters quoted John Savrnoch, the chief deputy district attorney for Santa Barbara County, as saying.
Plains All American has said that it had spent US$150 million in cleanup and oil spill response before the criminal case against it was filed in 2016.
The sentencing is set for December 13, 2018, but Plains All American has indicated in court that it will appeal the verdict by the middle of November.
“Engaging in this kind of reckless conduct is not just irresponsible—it’s criminal. Today’s verdict should send a message: if you endanger our environment and wildlife, we will hold you accountable,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said on Friday, commenting on the jury’s verdicts.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.