Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 7, 2018

Contact: Kristen Monsell, (510) 844-7137,

Plains Pipeline Criminally Liable for 2015 Coastal California Oil Spill, Jury Finds

Company Failed to Maintain Pipeline Before Spill Killed Wildlife, Coated Beaches

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.— Plains All-American Pipeline was found guilty of several charges in connection with the 2015 rupture of its severely corroded coastal oil pipeline today after a four-month trial. The spill near Refugio State Beach leaked more than 120,000 gallons of oil, killed hundreds of birds and marine mammals and blackened Santa Barbara area beaches for miles.

A jury found Houston-based Plains guilty of a felony for failing to properly maintain its pipeline, and several misdemeanors, including failing to timely call emergency response agencies. The spill shuttered seven offshore drilling platforms that were served by the pipeline, Line 901. Plains has applied to build a new pipeline in the same location. ExxonMobil is also seeking permits to transport oil by tanker trucks so it can restart its three offshore platforms. 

“Plains’ criminal negligence caused this devastating oil spill and we can’t give it a second chance to spill again,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s time to get dirty,  dangerous drilling out of our oceans, out of our coastal areas and out of our state.”

Santa Barbara and at least 64 over California cities and counties formally oppose the Trump administration’s current proposal to expand offshore drilling in the Pacific and other U.S. oceans. Recent public opinion polling shows that 69 percent of Californians oppose new offshore drilling.

The other misdemeanors for which the jury found Plains guilty included six counts of killing marine mammals, protected sea birds, and other marine life; and one count of violating a county ordinance prohibiting oil spills.  Plains is scheduled to be sentenced on December 13, 2018.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

More press releases