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Companies responsible for 2021 Southern California oil spill set to plead guilty, pay almost $13 million in fines

<i>Mario Tama/Getty Images/FILE</i><br/>Cleanup workers search for contaminated sand and seaweed along the mostly empty Huntington Beach
Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images/FILE
Cleanup workers search for contaminated sand and seaweed along the mostly empty Huntington Beach

By Taylor Romine, CNN

A Houston-based oil company and two subsidiaries have agreed to plead guilty to violating the federal Clean Water Act and pay a $7.1 million criminal fine after their pipeline leaked about 25,000 gallons of crude oil across the coast of Southern California, prosecutors say.

The US Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California announced the agreement Friday.

The leak in the San Pedro Bay Pipeline happened in October 2021. The companies were charged in December 2021.

Amplify Energy Corp. and its subsidiaries Beta Operating Co. and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Co. agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count each of negligently discharging oil into San Pedro Bay, according to plea agreements filed Friday. Prosecutors said in a release the companies will appear in court “in the near future” to formally plead.

In addition to the criminal fine, the plea agreement says the companies will compensate federal programs for their cleanup efforts with about $5.8 million, prosecutors said. The companies will be on probation for four years and then must install a new leak detection system, conduct visual inspections of the pipeline semiannually, and improve employee training, among other things.

The plea agreement must be approved by US District Judge David O. Carter before taking effect, prosecutor said.

“The substantial financial penalties and compliance measures required by the plea agreements demonstrate the federal government’s resolve to punish any entity that causes environmental damage,” Acting US Attorney Stephanie S. Christensen said in the release. “The companies involved are now accepting their responsibility for criminal conduct and are required to make significant improvements that will help prevent future oil spills.”

Amplify also released a statement. President and CEO Martyn Willsher said that “from the outset” the company was committed to “working cooperatively with the various agencies investigating this incident.”

“We believe this resolution, which is subject to court review and approval, reflects the commitments we made immediately following the incident to impacted parties and is in the best interest of Amplify and its stakeholders,” Willsher said. “We are committed to safely operating in a way that ensures the protection of the environment and the surrounding communities.”

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