(HorizonPost.com) – A pipeline leak off the Southern California coast caused about 25,000 gallons of crude oil to spill into the Pacific Ocean at the beginning of October. On December 15, a federal grand jury charged Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp., Beta Operating Co., and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Co. with criminal negligence in relation to the spill. The LA Times reported that although it’s still unknown what exactly caused the spill, the government wanted to take a proactive stance against companies that don’t properly maintain aging oil platforms.
The actual amount of oil spilled was substantially less than the initially estimated 100,000 gallons, but experts say the amount of oil leaked still may be harmful to communities and the environment.
A Look at the Charges
The indictment alleges the underwater pipeline runs from an oil rig platform to the Port of Long Beach and was understaffed. The charges also claim the pipeline workers were undertrained and exhausted, directly leading to the undetected pipeline leak. The misdemeanor charge could lead to a penalty of five years probation plus fines that could “total millions of dollars.”
Prosecutors said in the indictment crews knew about system problems with the pipeline ahead of the spill. Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley stated it was “very distressing” that the parent company lied repeatedly to public officials, and they must be accountable for their inaction.
In addition to the criminal charges against them, the companies face civil lawsuits from dozens of local homeowners and businesses affected by the spill.
The Spill and the Aftermath
The US Coast Guard reported there might have been a pipeline deviation after October 2020 when investigators noticed a 13-inch crack in the pipe’s casing. They suspect multiple incidents and strikes from that time on made the situation worse, possibly causing the leak.
Experts are also evaluating if weather and other natural events may have contributed to the pipeline’s decline. The National Transportation Safety Board lab will examine a section of it to determine exactly what caused the leak. Once they conclude the investigation, the court will decide if the companies in question could have prevented the tragedy.
After the oil leak, Huntington closed its beaches for about a week and a half while others dealt with the clean-up. On December 16, the Oiled Wildlife Network reported it had saved only 31 of 84 affected birds in the area and found 14 dead fish amid the spill. Although Huntington Beach reopened for beachgoers, the city will test the water quality twice a week for the next two weeks to ensure everyone’s safety.
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