West Coast
Cleanup crews from Patriot Enviromental services collect and dispose of the oil in the Talbert Marsh in Huntington Beach. Oct. 4, 2021. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

CA - Oil Spill Company to Pay Equivalent of 1.5% of Last Year’s Revenue to End State Charges

The company whose oil spill last October devastated Orange County’s coastline and coastal businesses – and later acknowledged it failed to shut down the pipeline despite hours of alarms – will pay a fine equivalent to 1.5% of its annual revenues to resolve state criminal charges.

The plea agreement, announced Thursday, was heralded as strong accountability by the top state and county prosecutors, after Amplify Energy separately pleaded guilty earlier in the day to a separate, federal charge of negligently leaking oil off Orange County’s coast.

“If you pollute our environment, the California Department of Justice [and] the Orange County District Attorney’s office will hold you accountable. Today we proved that yet again,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta at a news conference in Santa Ana.

He noted Amplify failed to take action to stop the leak for 16 hours as alarms warned about the spill.

The fine, split between the state and county government, to resolve six state misdemeanor criminal charges is $5 million – equivalent to 1.5% of Amplify’s annual revenues last year of $343 million.

“The numbers are really phenomenal,” said OC District Attorney Todd Spitzer, referring to the settlement amount.

Calling the spill “absolutely devastating,” Spitzer said “Amplify unequivocally hit the snooze button. They knew they had a leak.”

Federal and state prosecutors have not charged any company officials over the spill, but rather the companies themselves, which they’ve used to extract fines and promises to prevent further leaks in order to end the prosecutions.

To resolve separate federal criminal charges filed in December, Amplify recently agreed to pay a $13 million fine and pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday.

The state and federal deals do not include any jail time or personal fines against company officials.

“I think this is a very strong showing to the rest of the industry,” Bonta said at Thursday’s news conference.

“This will hurt. This hurts.”

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