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Enforcement

Plains Pipeline, L.P. Information Sheet

WASHINGTON (March 13, 2020) — Federal officials announced a civil settlement with Plains All American Pipeline L.P. and Plains Pipeline L.P. (Plains) arising out of Plains’ violations of the federal pipeline safety laws and liability for the May 19, 2015, discharge of approximately 2,934 barrels of crude oil from Plains’ Line 901 immediately north of Refugio State Beach, located near Santa Barbara, California. 

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Overview of Company

Plains Pipeline, L.P. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. (“PAAP”), headquartered in Houston, Texas. Plains Pipeline is the registered operator of Line 901, the pipeline from which the Clean Water Act (CWA) violation addressed in this settlement, occurred.  PAAP is the parent or umbrella entity and responsible for the daily operations of Plains’ nationwide system. Plains owns and operates midstream energy infrastructure and provides logistic services for crude oil, natural gas liquids and natural gas.

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Violations

This settlement resolves Plains’ liability relating to a Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 311(b), 33 U.S.C. § 1321(b), violation involving the May 19, 2015 discharge of approximately 2,934 barrels of heavy crude-oil at Refugio Beach, near Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara County, California. The May 19, 2015 oil discharge occurred from Plains’ Line 901, a 24-inch diameter crude-oil pipeline that extends approximately 10.7 miles in length from the Los Flores Pump Station to the Gaviota Pump Station, in Santa Barbara County, California. The Line 901 first ruptured at approximately 11 a.m., resulting in the release of approximately 2,934 barrels (bbl) of heavy crude oil. The Line 901 crude oil traveled through three discrete culverts, reached the Refugio State Beach and entered the Pacific Ocean, 722 feet (0.13 miles) from the discharge point. The Refugio Incident caused widespread oiling of the Pacific Ocean, shorelines, and beaches. It  resulted in beach and fishing closures, and adversely impacted natural resources such as birds, fish, marine mammals, and their respective habitats. The oil traveled past Los Angeles as far south as Orange County, California.

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Injunctive Relief

The injunctive relief required by the consent decree was primarily negotiated by the United States Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the California Office of State Fire Marshal (“OSFM”), the primary pipeline regulating co-Plaintiffs. The injunctive relief includes:

a) OSFM to assume primary regulation of specified Plains pipelines;

b) third-party analysis of Line 2000 data;

c) Revisions to Plains’ Integrity Management Plan;

d) Refiguration of certain pipeline valves and leak detection systems;

e) Updates to Plains risk management planning, including a new culvert survey;

f) Improvement to Plains’ control room management, emergency response and spill response protocols; and

g) Improvements to Plains’ drug and alcohol testing practices.

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Pollutant Impacts

The crude oil discharge resulted in the oiling of Refugio State Beach, the Pacific Ocean, and other shorelines and beaches, resulted in beach and fishing closures and adversely impacted natural resources such as birds, fish, marine mammals and shoreline and subtidal habitat.

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Civil

Under the consent decree, Plains will pay a total of $24 million in penalties to various federal agencies, including $9.45 million in CWA penalties. The CWA penalties will be shared with the State as follows: EPA ($5.925M), the California Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board ($2.5M), and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife ($1.025M).

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.  Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice website

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For more information, contact:

Liz Huston, Attorney
U.S. EPA, Region 7
11201 Renner Blvd.
Lenexa, KS 66219
(913) 551-7525
huston.liz@epa.gov
 

Jeffrey Speir, Attorney
U.S. EPA, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, MC-2243A
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-0872
speir.jeffrey@epa.gov

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