Aimee Thaksin, Don Thompson
SANTA ANA, CA (Associated Press) — An oil company pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to neglecting to dump crude off the coast of Southern California when its underwater pipeline ruptured last year, a leak that closed miles of coastline and closed fisheries.
Meanwhile, in state court, Houston-based Amplify Energy and two of its affiliates agreed not to enter contest calls to kill birds and pollute water in a settlement with county and state officials over the same oil spill in October 2021.
The Amplify pipeline broke off the coast of Orange County, spilling about 25,000 gallons (94,600 liters) of oil into the Pacific Ocean. The rip closed beaches for a week, fishing for more than a month, and oily birds, threatening local wetlands.
Unambiguously inflated press the snooze button. They knew they had a leak. “Their leak detection system detected a leak,” said Orange County Attorney Todd Spitzer. “Over and over again, they just kept ignoring it. This is criminal and that’s why charges have been brought against them.”
Spitzer and Attorney General Rob Ponta announced the filing of six misdemeanour charges against the company and two of its subsidiaries over the leak.
Spitzer said the company would not appeal all six fees and would pay $4.9 million in fines and penalties as part of the settlement. Ponta described the sentence as “historic,” and it is believed to be the largest criminal misdemeanor fine ever in Orange County.
Ponta said the company will also be monitored for 12 months and make changes designed to avoid spills in the future, including increased inspections and technology to detect leaks.
Martin Welcher, Amplify President and CEO, said at a permit The company’s agreement with state and federal officials “also reflects the obligations we made immediately upon the incident to the communities and environment affected by the release.” He said the company “remains committed to operating safely in a manner that ensures the protection of the environment and surrounding communities.”
Ponta said criminal charges do not resolve the state’s civil lawsuit against the company.
Ponta said the company’s failure to sound the alarm properly led to the widespread spill that closed beaches and led to the recovery of 116 live and dead oil-contaminated birds, “and the full economic impact of the oil spill is still emerging.”
The criminal charges include discharging oil into state waters, failing to report it to state officials immediately, and four counts of killing birds.
Both Amplify and its affiliates pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count Thursday, Tom Mrozek, a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, said in federal court in Santa Ana. The petition comes after companies agreed With federal prosecutors to pay a fine of $7 million and nearly $6 million in expenses incurred by agencies including the US Coast Guard.
In the federal agreement, Amplify also agreed to install a new leak detection system for the pipeline that takes crude from offshore platforms to shore. They also said they will train staff to identify and respond to potential leaks. Federal authorities said the company and its subsidiaries failed to respond to eight leak detection alerts within a 13-hour period that should have alerted workers to the October 2021 leak.
Amplification confirms it Two ships docked The pipeline went through and was damaged during a January 2021 storm, but the company was not notified of the recall until after the spill. Without this damage, Amplify argued that the leak would not have occurred.
The announcement of the state deal led to unusual and unexpected tributes between Ponta, a progressive Democrat seeking to retain his post, and Spitzer, a Republican who has faced significant controversy in recent months.
Punta called Spitzer “a true fighter and hero for Orange County,” while Spitzer was lavish in his praise of Punta, who faces a Republican opponent in November.
“Having an attorney general who is so committed to protecting society and our environment is a very big blessing to me as a attorney general,” Spitzer said.
Thompson reported from Sacramento.
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