Judge approves $230M settlement in California oil spill case

Sep 22, 2022, 6:10 PM | Updated: 6:35 pm
FILE - Staff members and volunteers work to clean oil off a brown pelican at the International Bird...

FILE - Staff members and volunteers work to clean oil off a brown pelican at the International Bird Rescue office in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles, May 22, 2015, after a broken onshore pipeline in near Santa Barbara, Calif., spewed oil down a storm drain and into the ocean for several hours before it was shut off. A judge has approved a $230 million lawsuit settlement by the owners of a pipeline that spilled more than 140,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean off California in 2015. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File )

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File )

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge has approved a $230 million lawsuit settlement by the owners of a pipeline that spilled more than 140,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean off California in 2015, lawyers announced Thursday.

A federal judge in Los Angeles gave final approval on Tuesday to a settlement of a class-action suit that blamed All American Pipeline, L.P. and Plains Pipeline, L.P. for the May 2015 spill off the Santa Barbara coast.

The corroded undersea pipeline ruptured north of Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles. All American Pipeline later estimated that 142,800 gallons spilled.

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

“Due to failed maintenance and extensive pipeline corrosion, the pipeline ruptured and spilled, devastating the fishing industry and soiling coastal properties from Santa Barbara County to Los Angeles County,” said a press statement from the law firms that filed the suit.

People who believe they may be entitled to some of the money have until Oct. 31 to submit claims.

The companies didn’t admit liability in the settlement agreement, which was reached in May following seven years of legal wrangling.

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

Plains apologized for the spill and paid for the costly 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.

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Judge approves $230M settlement in California oil spill case