Plains All American Pipeline agrees to $230M settlement over 2015 Refugio oil spill

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY (KABC) -- The owner of an oil pipeline that leaked thousands of barrels of crude oil onto Southern California beaches in 2015 has agreed to a settlement.

Plains All American Pipeline will pay $230 million dollars to fishermen and property owners affected by that May 2015 leak caused by a corroded pipeline north of Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County.

$184 million are to go to fishermen and fish processors, while $46 million will go to coastal property owners in the settlement reached Friday, according to court documents.

The agreement still needs federal court approval. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for June 10.

The company didn't admit liability in the agreement, which follows seven years of legal wrangling.

The more than 123,000 gallons spilled on May 19, 2015, reached as far south as Los Angeles County.

It was the worst California coastal oil spill since 1969 and it blackened popular beaches for miles, killing or fouling hundreds of seabirds, seals and other wildlife and hurting tourism and fishing.

Federal inspectors found that Plains All American Pipeline had made several preventable errors, failed to quickly detect the pipeline rupture and responded too slowly as oil flowed toward the ocean.

Plains operators working from a Texas control room more than 1,000 miles away had turned off an alarm that would have signaled a leak and, unaware a spill had occurred, restarted the hemorrhaging line after it had shut down, which only made matters worse, inspectors found.

Plains apologized for the spill and paid for the cleanup.

In 2020, Plains agreed to pay $60 million to the federal government to settle allegations that it violated safety laws. It also agreed to bring its nationwide pipeline system into compliance with federal safety laws.

Plains has applied for permission to build a new pipeline but it is facing an uphill battle.

The Associated Press contributed to this report
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