A US federal grand jury last week accused three companies with illegally discharging oil during a pipeline break in early October off the coast of California. An indictment charges the companies that own and operate the 17-mile-long San Pedro Bay Pipeline with one misdemeanor count of negligent discharge of oil. The charged defendants are Amplify Energy Corp. and its wholly owned subsidiaries Beta Operating Co. LLC and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Co.
The indictment alleges that the defendants acted negligently in at least six ways, including failing to properly respond to eight separate leak alarms over the span of more than 13 hours and improperly restarting the pipeline that had been shut down following the leak alarms.
The pipeline, which was used to transfer crude oil from several offshore facilities to a processing plant in Long Beach, began leaking on the afternoon of October 1, but the defendants allegedly continued to operate the damaged pipeline, on and off, until the next morning. As a result of the allegedly negligent conduct, what is estimated to be about 25,000 gallons of crude oil were discharged from a point approximately 4.7 miles west of Huntington Beach from a crack in the pipeline.
For a corporate defendant, the charge of negligently discharging oil carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years of probation, as well as fines that potentially could total millions of dollars.