A photo of oil-contaminated water in the Talbert Marsh, Photo: Mario Tama (Getty Images)
The Texas company allegedly responsible for hundreds of liters of oil spilled near Huntington Beach, California, faces criminal charges in October. A federal grand jury sued Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp. and two of its subsidiaries this week, accuse them of a single offense of illegally discharging oil.
According to prosecutors, Amplify failed to respond properly to eight leak detection system alarms over the course of nearly 13 hours. Although the pipeline started leaking in the afternoon, Amplify reportedly kept pumping oil and didn’t stop until the next morning. If they had responded sooner, Amplify could have mitigated the damage, prosecutors say. All told, an estimated 25,000 gallons of oil flowed into the Pacific Ocean, along with some… California coast coloring.
Earlier this month, the Associated Press published revealed a report filed by one of Amplify’s subsidiaries with federal regulators claimed the pipeline had no functioning leak detection system at the time of the rupture. Previous investigations showed that the pipeline may have been weakened months before the rupture after a ship’s anchor snagged on it. In an interview with AP, Amplify’s CEO Martyn Willsher claimed the pipeline was “pulled like a bowstring”.
Amplify has also claimed workers responded to what they believed were false alarms that indicated a leak on the platform. The actual leak occurred in pipes about 6 kilometers away.
“Had the crew known there was an oil leak in the water, they would have shut down the pipeline immediately,” Amplify said in a statement. statement to the Guardian.
Aside from the alarms, the indictment accuses Amplify of negligence in five other ways, including operating an undermanned pipeline and having a tired crew. The company is said to have shut down and restarted the pipeline five different times, resulting in more than three hours of oil flow through the damaged pipeline, according to prosecutors.
Local state Sen. Dave Mino welcome the indictment, saying (though perhaps prematurely) that “justice was served.” Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley Released A tweet questioning the “truth” of Amplify’s statements.
The pipeline ruptured in October and threatened local wetlands and wildlife. Nearly 40 miles of California’s coastline, stretching from Dana Point to Huntington Beach, was affected by the spill. The rough coastlines were littered with dead fish and birds, forcing larger marine life such as dolphins to swim with oil.
To make matters worse, government officials said oil from the spill seeped into nearby Talbert Marsh, where birds regularly pass by as they migrate in winter. If found guilty, the negligence charges could carry up to five years in prison and potentially millions of dollars in fines.
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