Three Firms Hit With Federal ‘Negligent Conduct’ Charges Over California Oil Spill

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Thomas Catenacci Energy & Environment Reporter
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A federal grand jury indicted three fossil fuel companies of negligence in the wake of a large oil spill off the coast of southern California in early October.

The indictment accused Amplify Energy and two of its subsidiaries of “negligent conduct” and “failing to properly respond to eight separate leak alarms over the span of more than 13 hours and improperly restarting the pipeline that had been shut down following the leak alarms,” federal prosecutors said on Wednesday. The firms allegedly continued to pump oil from an offshore rig hours after oil began leaking from an underwater pipe into the Pacific Ocean, according to the charges.

“I am outraged by the complete and utter failure of Amplify Energy to do their job,” said California Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, the Los Angeles Times reported. “Their absolute negligence caused devastation in our coastal community. This was not a freak incident — someone here is to blame, and justice will be served.”

Overall, an estimated 25,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled into the ocean about 5 miles from the shore of Huntington Beach, California, according to the Department of Justice. (RELATED: California Residents Sue Oil Company Responsible For Major Beach Spill)

The charges also accused the companies of poorly trained workers who were also “fatigued,” prosecutors said.

People walk with dogs on a mostly empty Huntington Beach after an oil spill on Oct. 9 in Huntington Beach, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

People walk with dogs on a mostly empty Huntington Beach after an oil spill on Oct. 9 in Huntington Beach, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The spill occurred in the afternoon of Oct. 1 after a ship anchor reportedly struck a pipeline transporting oil from the Amplify rig inland. It created a roughly 13 square-mile oil slick in the Pacific as crews raced to clean up the mess and save local wildlife in the weeks after.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California declared a state of emergency in response to the massive spill. Meanwhile, the company said it would work to prevent such incidents in the future.

“Offshore energy development and maritime traffic can and have coexisted in this region for decades and we are committed to working with maritime stakeholders to investigate this incident and ensure something like this does not happen again,” Amplify said in an Oct. 18 statement.

“Amplify Energy is committed to safely operating in a way that ensures the protection of the environment and the surrounding communities – communities where many of our employees live and raise their families,” it continued.

California Democrats used the spill to argue that the nation should move on from oil and gas leases.

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