August 11, 2015 — Plains All-American Pipeline, the Texas-based operator of a pipeline that spilled about 150,000 gallons of oil near Santa Barbara, is now under investigation by federal, state, and local authorities.
According to a regulatory filing (PDF), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating whether there were any violations of federal criminal laws.
In addition, the California Attorney General’s Office, and the District Attorney’s Office for the County of Santa Barbara are investigating whether any state or local laws were broken.
The state’s top prosecutor could seek penalties of up to $25,000 per day of violation, plus $25 for every gallon of oil spilled, according to Reuters.
Any violations of the Clean Water Act carry penalties of $1,100 to $4,300 per barrel of oil. This week, Plains increased the worst-case spill estimate to 3,400 barrels — or about 142,800 gallons, up 41% from their original estimate.
Plains is also facing six class action lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. In general, the lawsuits involving economic losses from the fishing and tourism industry. Owners of oceanfront and/or beachfront property have also filed claims.
Plains estimates it will spend $257 million in cleanup and other costs related to the spill.
About 100 miles of coastline were fouled just days before Memorial Day Weekend, a major tourist holiday that marks the beginning of summer in Santa Barbara. Hundreds of animals died, including birds, dolphins, sea lions, and endangered species. Investigators have already determined that the pipeline (Line 901) had extensive corrosion and was worn down to 1/16th of an inch (1.6mm) where it broke.