The operators of a pipeline that leaked crude oil onto California beaches has agreed to plead guilty to environmental pollution charges and pay $13 million, these companies said Friday.
Amplify Energy, a Texas company operating the pipeline off Huntington Beach, and two of its subsidiaries -- Beta Operating Co. and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Co. -- said they will admit to allowing oil to foul the waters off southern California in October last year.
As part of plea agreements entered in federal court, they will pay a $7.1 million fine and hand over $5.8 million to compensate federal agencies involved in cleaning up 25,000 gallons of crude oil that spewed from their pipeline.
The spill blackened 18 miles (24 kilometres) of coast south of Los Angeles between Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach, spots popular with surfers and a habitat for dolphins.
Underwater inspections revealed that a large segment of the pipeline had been displaced and showed a rupture in the pipe.
Investigators said last year they suspected the damage could have been caused by the anchor of a ship, as the area is often packed with cargo vessels waiting to enter the busy ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Martyn Willsher, Amplify's president and chief executive officer, said the company had worked "cooperatively" to resolve the problem as soon as it was discovered.
"We believe this resolution, which is subject to court review and approval, reflects the commitments we made immediately following the incident to impacted parties and is in the best interest of Amplify and its stakeholders.
"We are committed to safely operating in a way that ensures the protection of the environment and the surrounding communities."
Amplify has also agreed to install a new leak detection system and to increase inspections along sections of the pipeline.
"This oil spill affected numerous people, businesses and organizations who use the Southern California coastal waters," said Acting US Attorney Stephanie Christensen.
"The companies involved are now accepting their responsibility for criminal conduct and are required to make significant improvements that will help prevent future oil spills."
The October disaster reignited the debate over the presence of oil platforms just a few miles from the densely populated southern California shore.
A total of 23 oil and gas platforms operate in federal waters just off the coast.
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