Image courtesy of Pacific Southwest Region USFWS/Flickr.

Plains All American Pipeline confirmed Wednesday that it and one of its employees have been indicted on charges related to a 2015 pipeline spill.

Plains said the indictments were handed down by a California state grand jury for alleged violations of California law in connection with the May 19, 2015 accidental oil release near Santa Barbara.

Houston-based Plains said that the indictment included a total of 46 counts.

Ten of the counts are related to the release of crude oil or reporting of the release and 36 counts are related to wildlife “alleged to have been taken” as a result of the accidental release.

The name of the indicted employee was not disclosed.

Plains said that it will vigorously defend itself against the charges and added that it believes that neither the company nor any of its employees engaged in any criminal behavior.

“Plains is deeply disappointed by the decision of the California Attorney General and Santa Barbara District Attorney to pursue criminal charges against Plains and one of its employees in connection with the 2015 accident,” the company said.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said in February that preliminary findings indicate that external corrosion was the “root cause” behind the failure of Line 901.

The PHMSA found that the leak began after an unintentional pump shutdown occurred while a Plains technician was disconnecting and removing a motor from a non-operational pump at the Sisquoc station on the adjacent Line 903.

Plains initially estimated that the ruptured line released about 2,400 barrels of oil.

However, after the company completed a PHMSA-mandated purge, Plains indicated that the line may have released as many as 3,400 barrels.

A final accident investigation report from the PHMSA is expected to be released sometime in 2016.

Plains said on Tuesday that it has directly or indirectly spent more than $150 million on the response effort, cleanup and related matters.

The incident also prompted a $12 million lawsuit from Colorado-based upstream Venoco in April for losses it claimed to have suffered because of the spill.

Venoco filed for bankruptcy protection in March and cited the shutdown of Line 901 as “serious problems” for the firm.

“It is unfortunate that a third-party pipeline spill has impacted Venoco, but this process will make it stronger and ensure its continued contributions to the Santa Barbara County community,” Venoco founder Tim Marquez said in March.


Leave a Reply