Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 17, 2017

Contact:  Patrick Sullivan, (415) 517-9364,

Company Responsible for Refugio Oil Spill Seeks Permit to Rebuild Pipelines

Plains All American Pipeline Has Long History of Spills, Faces Criminal Charges

SANTA BARBARA, Calif— The pipeline company responsible for the Refugio oil spill in 2015 is seeking permission from Santa Barbara County to rebuild two of its pipelines in California. The pipelines run for more than 120 miles in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern counties. 

Plains All American Pipeline has had 239 incidents (mostly oil spills) nationwide since 2006, including 20 in California, according to federal documents analyzed by the Center for Biological Diversity. The company has been responsible for nearly $180 million in property damage from spilling 822,748 gallons of hazardous liquids from its pipelines. It is also facing 46 criminal charges filed by the California Attorney General's Office for negligence in allowing its severely corroded pipeline to rupture.

“Letting this spill-prone company rebuild its oil pipelines would be a recipe for another disaster,” said Miyoko Sakashita, director of the Center's oceans program. “California should lead the charge toward a clean energy future, not let companies rebuild dirty fossil fuel infrastructure. We urge Santa Barbara County to reject this incredibly dangerous proposal.”

Federal data show that new pipelines carry a high risk of spills, mostly because of faulty design or construction. Data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration indicate there are more oil spills in the first two years of pipeline's life than in the next seven years combined.

Plains' Line 901 ruptured in May 2015, spilling more than 123,000 gallons of crude oil, at least 21,000 gallons of which made it into the ocean. The spill killed hundreds of marine mammals and birds, including dolphins and sea lions. Endangered humpback whales were observed swimming in the spill.

That broken line has been shut down since the spill. Plains applied to Santa Barbara County to replace Line 901 with a smaller diameter pipeline. It also plans to replace a portion of Line 903, which was also shut down by the federal regulators.

“Oil spills are an ugly and inevitable part of this dirty industry. But Santa Barbara County can help prevent these ecological tragedies with strong action, including rejecting this dangerous proposal,” said Sakashita.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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