Criminal charges have been lodged against Plains All American Pipeline and one of its employees in connection with a 2015 oil spill near Santa Barbara, California.
The company has been indicted by a grand jury on 46 charges whilst the employee, James Buchanan, was indicted on three.
On May 19, 2015 the line 901 pipeline ruptured and released around 140,000 gallons of heavy crude oil onto land, beaches and the Pacific Ocean. The statement from Attorney General Kamala Harris states that federal, state and local governments have spent millions in clean-up costs, which have substantially damaged natural habitats and wildlife.
The grand jury indictment against the pipeline company includes four felony charges and 42 misdemeanour charges. The felony violations of state laws regard the spilling of oil and hazardous substances into water. Both the company and Buchanan were charged with misdemeanour violations for failing to provide timely notice of the spill to the office of emergency services. Additionally, the company was incited on three dozen misdemeanour charges linked to the spill’s impact on birds and mammals.
The company faces up to $2.8 million in fines plus additional costs and penalties.
Plains says that neither the company not any of its employees engaged in any criminal behaviour at any time in connection with the accident and that the criminal charges are unwarranted.
It says: ‘We will vigorously defend ourselves against these charges and are confident we will demonstrate that the charges have no merit and represent an inappropriate attempt to criminalise an unfortunate accident.’
It has set out how it is working with relevant agencies and government agencies to clean-up the spill. It says it has spent more than $150 million on the response effort, clean-up and related matters. It adds that it intends to share key findings from this incident with other pipeline operators to improve practices industry-wide.