Pipeline operator in tentative deal for California oil spill lawsuits

A Texas-based company that operates the oil pipeline that sent at least 25,000 gallons of crude gushing into the waters off Southern California in a spill last year has tentatively agreed to settle more than a dozen lawsuits brought by business owners and residents in Orange County.

The chief executive of Amplify Energy Corp., Martyn Willsher, did not disclose the terms of the settlement, but said in a statement late Thursday that the proposed deal would be a “reasonable and fair resolution” to the disastrous spill, dpa news agency reported on Friday.

The company’s insurance policy would cover the cost of the payouts, Amplify Energy said.

The deal would resolve civil lawsuits filed in federal court by property owners, business owners and residents who said they suffered financial effects from the October spill. Those plaintiffs include Laguna Beach coastal property owners, a Huntington Beach surf school, a Seal Beach bait and tackle store, and several groups of fishing and seafood sales companies.

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs said in a statement that the details of the agreement, which resulted from “extensive negotiations” between the parties, will be presented to the court for approval.

They did not disclose the terms of the settlement.

The US Coast Guard has said that an anchor striking and dragging the pipeline could have made the conduit more vulnerable to other damage or to environmental stressors.

In late July, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 in closed session to approve a nearly $1-million settlement agreement with Amplify.

In exchange for agreeing not to sue the oil company, the county accepted a $956,352 payment to cover cleanup costs, including legal bills and salaries for workers who scrambled to keep the oil out of sensitive wetlands.

The October 2021 oil spill disrupted activity along the coast for weeks and forced the cancellation of the Pacific Airshow in Huntington Beach, one of the city’s most popular annual events.

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