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3 companies charged with negligence in Southern California oil spill

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Three companies are facing charges for their alleged roles in a California oil spill earlier this year, the Department of Justice announced in an indictment filed Wednesday. Amplify Energy Co. and two of its wholly owned subsidiaries — Beta Operating Co. LLC and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Co. — each face a misdemeanor count of negligent discharge of oil. 

The charge, brought by a federal grand jury, carries a maximum penalty of up to five years of probation for each accused company, along with fines that could cost them millions of dollars. 

The companies own and operate the San Pedro Bay Pipeline in Long Beach, California, that was previously used to transport crude oil from different offshore oil rigs to a processing plant. The pipeline began to leak on October 1, and officials confirmed the leak a day later after residents reported a petroleum smell in the area. 

According to the indictment, the accused companies acted negligently by not properly responding to eight separate leak alarms over the course of more than 13 hours that night. They’re also accused of letting oil pass through the damaged pipeline, having under-qualified staff, and “operating the pipeline with an understaffed and fatigued crew.”

“As a result of the allegedly negligent conduct, what is estimated to be about 25,000 gallons of crude oil were discharged from a point approximately 4.7 miles west of Huntington Beach from a crack in the 16-inch pipeline,” the Department of Justice wrote Wednesday. 

This aerial photo shows beachgoers as workers in protective suits continue to clean the contaminated beach in Huntington Beach, Calif., Monday, Oct. 11, 2021.

Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

The leak was initially estimated by officials to be at least 126,000 gallons, however the U.S. Coast Guard later determined the spill was significantly smaller. 

Following the leak, dozens of animals along the coast were found dead, according to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, and California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency.

Amplify Energy said it was “committed to safely operating in a way that ensures the protection of the environment and the surrounding communities.”

“We are fully committed to supporting the Unified Command and complying with all regulatory requirements and investigations,” the company said in a statement on October 18. “These investigations take time, given their complexity, and Amplify Energy remains committed to cooperating with the federal and state agencies looking into this matter.”

Multiple agencies including the Coast Guard Investigative Service and the Environmental Protection Agency are still investigating the leak. 



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