Orange County oil spill: 1st federal lawsuit filed in massive leak as cleanup efforts continue

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- As the U.S. Coast Guard investigates as many as 144,000 gallons of oil spilled five miles off the Orange County coast, the first federal lawsuit linked to the disaster was filed late Monday in an effort to recover damages for individuals and businesses damaged by the massive leak.

The spill, publicly announced Saturday, apparently occurred from an offshore oil production facility owned by Houston-based Amplify Energy. The proposed class-action suit, filed in Los Angeles federal court against the corporation and its Beta Offshore division, includes claims for monetary damages, injunctive relief, response costs, and medical monitoring.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Peter Moses Gutierrez Jr., who owns a disc jockey company that regularly performs along Huntington Beach. He alleges in the complaint that he is losing and will continue to lose a substantial amount of his DJ business due to the closure of the beach and other consequences of the spill.

Gutierrez also alleges he has been, or will be, exposed to toxic oil contaminants.

"After years fighting for business owners and residents devastated by the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast and other oil spill victims around the country, we understand the terrible impact these events have on the environment, wildlife, and people,'' said the plaintiff's attorney Alex R. Straus.
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Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Orange County to help mobilize state resources to clean up the oil spill off the coast.


As cleanup efforts continued on Tuesday, some 4,100 gallons have been recovered, officials said. Nearly 9,000 feet containment booms have been deployed. At least 320 people and 14 boats are involved in the operation.

Oil has been spotted along the coastline from Huntington Beach as far south as Dana Point, prompting the closure of all beaches under Orange County's jurisdiction.

Officials investigating the spill, one of California's largest in recent years, are looking into whether a ship's anchor may have struck an oil pipeline on the ocean floor, causing heavy crude to leak into coastal waters and foul beaches, authorities said Monday.

The head of the company that operates the pipeline said company divers were inspecting the area of the suspected leak that was discovered Saturday, and he expected that by Tuesday there would be a clearer of what caused the damage.

The U.S. Coast Guard received the first report of a possible oil spill off the Orange County coast more than 12 hours before Amplify Energy reported the major leak in its pipeline and a cleanup effort was launched, records show.

Oil spill reports reviewed Monday by The Associated Press raise questions about the Coast Guard's response to spill as well as how quickly Amplify Energy, the company operating three offshore platforms and the pipeline, recognized it had a problem and notified authorities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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