$3.3 Million Fined for Worst Oil Spill in California

Plains All American Pipeline company was fined nearly $3.35 million on Thursday for causing the 2015 spill that sent 140,000 gallons of crude oil gushing onto Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County.

The spill, considered as the worst California coastal spill in 25 years caused from a corroded pipeline that blackened popular beaches for miles, killed wildlife, affected tourism and fishing, including killing marine mammals and protected sea birds.

According to federal inspectors Plains had made several preventable errors, failed to quickly detect the pipeline rupture and responded too slowly as oil flowed toward the ocean.

“We take our responsibility to safely deliver energy resources very seriously, and we are committed to doing the right thing,” the firm said in a statement Thursday and had paid $335 million for the cleanup according to the company’s 2017 annual report.


Plains All American Face Criminal Charges After California Spill

A California jury on Friday found Plains All American Pipeline company guilty on criminal charges from a major oil spill three years ago along the Pacific shoreline near Santa Barbara.

The spill ranks as the largest in more than four decades to hit the northwest coast of Los Angeles.

Crude oil gushed onto Refugio State Beach shores and into the Pacific after an underground pipeline badly worn by corrosion ruptured along a coastal highway west of Santa Barbara on May 19, 2015. Hundreds of sea bird and marine mammals died because of the spill.

The company estimated as much as 3,400 barrels of crude oil escaped into the environment at the edge of a national marine sanctuary and state-designated underwater preserve rich in marine life.

The company faces at least $1.5 million in penalties if Friday’s conviction is sustained  according to a chief deputy district attorney for Santa Barbara County.

The penalty is a small fraction of the $150 million that Plains said it had spent on spill response and cleanup costs by the time the criminal case was brought in 2016.

Plains was convicted of discharging crude oil into state waters, a felony, and for eight misdemeanor offenses, including the failure to immediately report the spill, the chief deputy district attorney added.

One of Plains’ employees, an environmental and regulatory compliance specialist, was originally charged in the case as well, but those charges, and dozens of others against the company, were dismissed before the trial.

The court specifically found the company at fault for failing to protect the pipeline from corrosion as well as failing to detect and report spills immediately.


ExxonMobil Requests Permit to Transport Crude Oil by Truck

ExxonMobil plans to resume production on three Santa Barbra Coast platforms by using up to 70 trucks a day via Central Coast Roads as a temporary measure to transport crude oil.

The decision comes after the onshore Plains All American pipeline ruptured in 2015 and 142,800 gallons of oil spilled out over the Refugio State Beach Coast.

Due to the pipeline rupture, ExxonMobil was unable to transport crude oil to U.S. markets, although the company has applied for a replacement transmission pipeline. Until then, permits from the Santa Barbara County will be needed to have permission to use alternative truck transportation.

If approved, ExxonMobil would transport crude oil from Las Flores Canyon facility to the Santa Maria Terminal via Hwy 101 or to Plains Pentland Terminal in Kern Country via Hwy 166. This would be a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week shift for truck transportation.

The company proposed to “restrict all site development and operational activity to existing disturbed areas."

Santa Barbra officials will hold a hearing today to weigh in on the environmental impacts as they prepare supplements for the environmental impact report. The Santa Barbara Country Board of supervisors will decide whether to grant the permit in roughly a year’s time.

Offshore technology


Gas Pipeline Leak Causes Evacuation of More than 1,000 Homes in San Diego

A ruptured and leaking gas pipeline in San Diego on Wednesday caused the evacuation of more than 1,000 homes and shut down five miles of a nearby freeway for several hours.

The rupture was caused by a construction worker who accidentally drilled into the 20-inch pipeline Wednesday morning while helping with a road expansion. The incident occurred near the Fashion Valley Mall in Mission Valley, San Diego.

At least 1,100 homes and some nearby businesses near the leak were evacuated, and authorities closed a section of State Route 163.

San Diego Gas & Electric finally capped the pipeline Wednesday evening. The evacuations were lifted, and the freeway was reopened, but repairs still need to be made to the pipeline.


Plains All American Pipeline, Valero Energy Corp Terminate Proposed Acquisition by Valero of Certain Plains Assets

Plains All American Pipeline and Valero Energy Corporation announced Monday its plan to terminate a proposed acquisition by Valero of certain Plains assets after a California Attorney General filed suit seeking to block the transaction.

In the proposed acquisition, Valero was to acquire two of Plains' petroleum storage and distribution terminals located in Martinez and Richmond, California.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that the transaction would have put all three Northern California petroleum-shipping hubs in the hands of refineries, which would have stifled competition and possibly raise gas prices.

Both Plains and Valero said in a statement that it was in their best interest to terminate the deal rather than "endure the continued uncertainty that a lengthy trial would create for the California-based employees and customers of the terminals, as well as the considerable expense associated with defending a taxpayer-funded lawsuit," according to a statement posted on Plains' website.

Houston Chronicle
Plains All American Pipeline

California Adopts Stricter Rules on Natural Gas Leaks as Way to Fight Global Warming

The California Public Utilities Commission voted Thursday to approve rules designed to cut natural gas leaks from pipelines and pumping stations by 40 percent, which will require more frequent inspections and quicker timelines to fix minor to major leaks.

The adoption comes as California continues to fight against global warming despite President Trump's decision to remove the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. After Trump's announcement earlier this month to remove the country from the accord, several state leaders vowed to continue to fight global warming through their own regulations.

The new regulations in California could save $8 million worth of gas each year, according to Tim O'Connor, the director of California oil and gas policy for the Environmental Defense Fund.

The regulations will require utilities companies to file annual reports on methane emissions and follow a list of 26 "best practices" made to prevent, find, and fix leaks. They also must inspect their gas distribution networks for leaks at least once every three years.

Houston Chronicle


PG&E to Pilot Innovative Technology Designed to Continuously Measure Methane Leaks

Pacific Gas and Electric Company is testing an innovative tool at its natural gas storage facility in northern California that has been designed to continuously check for methane release as a way to improve air quality, save wasted resources, and cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Business Wire, PG&E is the first energy company in the U.S. to pilot this technology developed for the Methane Detectors Challenge, a partnership between the Environmental Defense Fund, oil and gas companies and distributors, technology experts, and more. It was developed by a start-up company called Acutect, Inc. based in San Francisco.

PG&E said in a statement that it fully supports California’s strict regulations that aim to reduce emissions and that this technology will be instrumental in its effort to help achieve those goals to reduce emissions.

“The U.S. oil and gas industry loses about $2 billion of natural gas a year from leaks at dispersed sites, much of them undetected for months due to lack of continuous monitoring. By building bridges between innovators and customers that need scalable solutions, EDS is accelerating technologies that can help the oil and gas industry improve operations and forging solutions that build safer communities and let the planet thrive,” said Alleen Nowlan, the manager of the Methane Detectors Challenge.

The pilot will be stationed at PG&E’s facility in a true field setting and will study reliability, accuracy, and durability of the technology over three months.

Business Wire

Judge Denies Request to Open More California Lands to Fracking

A request by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to open roughly 1,500 square miles of land in California to use for fracking has been denied by a federal judge for lack of enough environmental studies on the effects fracking would have in the area.

U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald wrote in his ruling that the BLM needs more thorough studies on the effects the estimated 25 percent increase of wells devoted to fracking would have in the area. He gave the agency until September 21 to provide reason why he should not issue an injunction to stop the plan.

Fitzgerald’s ruling also notes that over one-third of the federally listed threatened and endangered species live in the planned area. The land also hosts many groundwater systems that are used for water supply for agriculture and residents.

Groups opposed to the plan say are pleased with the ruling. “This is a huge victory in the fight to protect our water and wildlife from fracking pollution and dangerous drilling,” said Brendan Cummings, Director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

President of the oil-industry group Western States Petroleum Association Catherine Reheis-Boyd said in response to the ruling that fracking methods have been thoroughly analyzed and reviewed, meeting the strictest environmental standards that are throughout the nation.


City of Ventura Subpoenas Crimson Pipeline Oil Spill Records

Ariel view of Ventura, California

The city of Ventura is requiring it be given all records relating to the Crimson Pipeline oil spill that happened last month. Ventura wants all records of maintenance, repairs, and inspections relating to the pipeline by July 18. The city also wants information on the amount of oil spilled, the cleanup process, and what checks were made before the pipeline reopened.

"To protect the health, safety, and well-being of the city's residents and visitors, the city is conducting an investigation into the spill, cleanup efforts, and subsequent use of the pipeline," according to the legislative subpoena filed Friday. "This requires the production of records which are in the possession of Crimson Pipeline.”

Along with subpoenaing all records relating to the pipeline, Ventura has also requested immediate shutdown of pipeline. Just one week after the spill, Crimson reopened the pipeline in order to meet contractual obligations with companies waiting on the crude oil. As of Tuesday, the pipeline is still in operation.

Crimson said it would work to comply with the city’s requests but that parts of the court order would not be available, and other documents could only be provided by lead agency Fish and Wildlife.

Ventura City Attorney Gregory Diaz said the city will explore its options should Crimson not comply with the subpoena.

Ventura County Star