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U.S. NEWSWednesday 18 May 2016

Company charged in oil spill that fouled California beaches 

BRIAN MELLEY                      In this May 21, 2015, file photo, an oil-covered bird flaps its wings amid at Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, Calif. 
Associated Press                                                                                                                                                                                      Associated Press
Texas pipeline company           ing of our ecosystems and    Ocean. More than 220          killed wildlife and created       disaster’s cause.
responsible for spilling         public health.”              birds, mostly pelicans, and   a backlash that helped            Initial investigation results
more than 140,000 gal-           Plains said in a statement   nearly 140 marine mam-        give birth to the environ-        have pointed to a badly
lons of crude oil on the         that the spill was an acci-  mals, mostly sea lions, were  mental movement.                  corroded pipeline that
California coast last year       dent and believes no crimi-  found dead in the after-      The Plains rupture was the        had undergone strength
was indicted on dozens of        nal behavior occurred.       math, and tar balls from      largest coastal oil spill since   tests just weeks before the
criminal charges in the di-      “We will demonstrate that    the spill drifted more than   the BP’s Deepwater Hori-          spill, but the results had not
saster that closed popular       the charges have no merit    100 miles away to Los An-     zon explosion in the Gulf of      been analyzed before it
beaches and killed sea li-       and represent an inappro-    geles beaches.                Mexico six years ago that         broke. Preliminary reports
ons and birds, prosecutors       priate attempt to criminal-  The Houston-based com-        killed 11 rig workers and         also show that it took hours
said Tuesday.                    ize an unfortunate acci-     pany faces three dozen        spewed millions of gallons        for Plains to recognize
Plains All American Pipeline     dent,” the company said.     misdemeanor counts of         of crude. BP settled fed-         what happened and notify
and one of its employees         The spill two weeks before   harming wildlife.             eral criminal charges by          officials.
face 46 counts of state law      Memorial Day weekend         The spill was a grim remind-  pleading guilty to 12 felony      A Plains employee and the
violations in the May 19,        last year forced the state   er of a much larger disaster  counts and two misde-             company were charged
2015, spill that initially went  to close popular beaches     in 1969 when an offshore      meanors and reached $20           in the indictment with mis-
undetected until oil be-         as an oil plume spread       oil rig blowout blackened     billion settlement with the       demeanor counts of failing
gan pouring onto a pristine      nine miles into the Pacific  Santa Barbara beaches,        Justice Department for en-        to report the spill quickly
beach on the Santa Bar-                                                                     vironmental damages.              enough to state emergen-
bara coastline and running                                                                  Plains could still face feder-    cy officials.
into the ocean.                                                                             al criminal charges for last      James Buchanan, 41, the
Initial investigations by fed-                                                              year’s spill. The Department      company’s environmen-
eral regulators found the                                                                   of Transportation’s pipe-         tal and regulatory compli-
2-foot-wide underground                                                                     line enforcement agency           ance specialist, faces up
pipeline was severely cor-                                                                  is expected to release the        to three years if convicted
roded where it broke on                                                                     results this spring of its year-  of all charges, prosecutors
land.                                                                                       long investigation into the       said.q
Plains was charged in San-
ta Barbara Superior Court
with four felony counts of
spilling oil in state waters
and could face fines of up
to $2.8 million if convicted
of all the charges, prosecu-
tors said.
“The carelessness of Plains
All American harmed hun-
dreds of species and ma-
rine life off Refugio Beach,”
California Attorney Gen-
eral Kamala Harris said in
a statement. “This conduct
is criminal, and today’s
charges serve as a pow-
erful reminder of the con-
sequences that flow from
jeopardizing the well-be-
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