Pipeline company to pay nearly $1M over California oil spill

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP) — The owner of an underwater oil pipeline that spilled some 25,000 gallons of crude into the ocean off Southern California last year will pay nearly $1 million in cleanup costs.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to accept a proposed claim settlement with Amplify Energy Corp. over the costs of dealing with last October’s spill off of Huntington Beach.

The ruptured pipeline spilled the oil, equal to about 94,600 liters, about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) offshore. While less severe than initially feared, the spill shuttered beaches for a week and fisheries for more than a month, oiled birds and threatened wetlands that Orange County communities have been striving to restore.

Investigators believe the San Pedro Bay Pipeline that ferried crude from offshore oil platforms to the coast was weakened when a cargo ship’s anchor snagged it in high winds in January 2021, months before it ultimately ruptured Oct. 1

Houston-based Amplify Energy sued two container ship operators and an organization that helps oversee marine traffic, saying they failed to prevent the spill. The suit alleges that in January 2021 two ships dragged their anchors across the pipeline.

The $956,352 settlement with Orange County includes about $238,000 for the county Public Works Department, which built sand berms and placed booms to prevent oil from polluting sensitive wetlands, the Orange County Register reported.

Money also will go to the county’s health agency, the Sheriff’s Department that operates the Harbor Patrol, and reimburse the county for legal costs and the hiring of contractors and environmental consultants.

Meanwhile, Amplify and two subsidiaries were indicted by a federal grand jury last year on a misdemeanor count of illegally discharging oil. The indictment alleges that fatigued workers failed to properly act when repeated alarms signaled an offshore pipeline rupture and continued operating the pipeline for hours.

Amplify has said company workers on and offshore believed they were responding to false alarms from a malfunctioning system.

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