Attorney General Becerra and Santa Barbara County District Attorney Dudley Announce Sentencing of Plains All American Pipeline for Santa Barbara County Oil Spill

Thursday, April 25, 2019
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley today announced the sentencing of Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. (Plains) for the 2015 Refugio Oil Spill in Santa Barbara County, California. Plains was sentenced to pay $3,347,650 in total fines and penalty assessments.

“Plains All American Pipeline’s criminal behavior was responsible for the oil leak that despoiled our coastline and endangered our environment,” said Attorney General Becerra. “My office has zero tolerance for these types of criminal acts. I am proud of our prosecution team who helped to bring a measure of justice for the massive loss that the Santa Barbara community endured.”

On May 19, 2015, a highly-pressurized pipeline operated by Plains to transport crude oil ruptured on shore just north of Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County, California. Evidence presented at trial demonstrated that over 140,000 gallons of crude oil was released from the pipeline, spilling crude oil into the Pacific Ocean and spreading across coastal beaches. At trial, testimony revealed that over 100,000 gallons of crude oil was never recovered. Local, state, and federal agencies led efforts to protect natural habitats and to try to address the residual hazardous materials remaining along the coast. 

On September 7, 2018, a Santa Barbara County jury returned a verdict finding Plains guilty of failing to properly maintain its dangerous, highly-pressurized pipeline, which led to the discharge of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean, a felony. Plains was also found guilty of eight misdemeanor charges including one count of failing to follow its own spill plan and notify emergency response agencies, six counts of killing marine mammals, protected sea birds, and other marine life, and one count of violating a county ordinance prohibiting oil spills.

The guilty verdicts and this Court’s sentence result from a joint investigation by the California Department of Justice; the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Office of Spill Prevention and Response; and the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.

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