An Orange County whale and dolphin tour company alleges in a proposed class action that Amplify Energy Corporation and two subsidiaries could have prevented the environmentally disastrous Southern California oil spill had the companies adequately maintained and monitored the pipeline.
The 37-page lawsuit moreover scathes that the defendants—Amplify, Beta Offshore, and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Company—could have at least mitigated the widespread harm caused by the estimated 131,000-gallon oil spill, which occurred roughly five miles off the coast of Huntington Beach, had they been sufficiently prepared and acted promptly once the spill began on October 2 (or possibly the day prior), including by reacting when a low-pressure alarm first indicated there was a problem.
The suit claims that although the oil spill is a disaster, “it is not an accident” given the defendants “wantonly disregarded the health and safety of the public and environment” by operating a pipeline while knowing they did not have proper safety systems in place. According to the complaint, Beta was fined $85,000 by federal regulators between 2013 and 2014 for violations that, in two instances, led to worker injuries. The company has, since 2010, reportedly been issued 125 noncompliance violations by federal inspectors, the lawsuit says.
“Defendants have profited and continue to profit from their failure to comply with safety requirements and guidelines,” the case alleges, claiming the companies were aware of the extremely high risk of a catastrophic oil spill. “Their decision not to maintain, repair and/or replace the Pipeline, or keep it safe from damage, demonstrates Defendants’ willingness to prioritize profits over public safety.”
Per the suit, the Old Bay Pipeline, owned by Amplify and operated by Beta Offshore and/or San Pedro Pipeline Company, connects a series of three offshore oil rig platforms with an onshore oil storage, processing and transportation facility located in the Port of Long Beach. The rupture of the 17-mile-long, 41-year-old underwater pipeline from where the spill originated, which rests roughly 98 feet below the Pacific Ocean surface, created a 13-square-mile and expanding oil slick off the Orange County shoreline, according to the suit. Since the breach occurred, the oil slick has spread east and south, adversely impacting coastal wetlands rich in biodiversity and human commerce, the lawsuit relays.
According to the case, the spill has deposited crude oil along stretches of shoreline and wetlands in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point and Huntington Beach, and killed fish and birds, threatened ecologically sensitive wetlands and closed a number of beaches.
“Oil coated the shoreline and clung to rocks, sand, wild animals, and marine life,” the complaint says. “The Spill has polluted beaches and damaged coastal private properties. The damage to Plaintiff and the related Class members is sudden in onset, massive in scope, indeterminate in duration, and cross-species in impact.”
Per the case, reports of a possible oil spill off the Huntington Beach coast were left on a federal hotline on the Friday night of October 1, nearly 16 hours before the U.S. Coast Guard and local officials publicly confirmed the spill. Despite receiving a low-pressure alarm indicating a potential failure at roughly 2:30 PDT on October 2, the defendants did not report that the San Pedro Bay Pipeline had been shut down until more than three hours later, the suit says.
More than six hours after the initial alarm, the defendants reported the spill to the National Response Center, per the complaint. The lawsuit says that although the precise timeline of events is still under investigation, it appears the defendants failed to promptly respond to signs of the pipeline’s failure or notify relevant government agencies.
The plaintiff business operates ocean tours, Pacific sunset tours and tours of Newport Harbor in Orange County, and employs captains and other employees while using its own watercraft for the business, the suit relays. As a result of oil spill-related beach closures, the plaintiff has lost money and profits, and the company’s business will continue to be affected in the future, the lawsuit says.
The case looks to represent all persons, real and corporate, and other entities experiencing business, personal and/or commercial losses in the Orange County and San Diego County, California coastal cities, including but not limited to Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Del Mar and La Jolla, beginning on or around October 1, 2021 and ongoing as a result of the oil spill.
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