Shipping companies reach $97M California oil spill agreement

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) – Shipping companies will pay nearly $97 million to settle a lawsuit with a pipeline operator over a 2021 oil spill off the coast of Southern California, the pipeline company said Wednesday.

Amplify Energy, the Houston-based company that operates the pipeline, said in a statement that companies associated with the M/V Danit and M/V Beijing agreed to the payments. Amplify accused the vessels of dragging anchors in the waters off California and striking the pipeline during a January 2021 storm, which months later led to the spill of 25,000 gallons (94,600 liters) of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean.

Once the payments are made, Amplify said it would drop its claims against the shipping companies.

“The resolution of Amplify’s claims against the vessels and their affiliated entities concludes our involvement in the litigation related to the 2021 pipeline incident,” Martyn Willsher, Amplify’s president and chief executive, said in the statement.

Messages seeking comment were sent to lawyers for the shipping companies.

While less severe than initially feared, the oil spill sent blobs of crude washing ashore, shuttered beaches for a week and fisheries for more than a month, oiled birds and threatened area wetlands.

Southern California fishermen, tourism companies and property owners sued Amplify and the shipping vessels seeking compensation for their losses. Amplify agreed to pay $50 million and the vessels agreed to pay $45 million to settle those lawsuits.

Amplify, which reached a plea deal with federal authorities for negligently discharging crude, sued the vessels and the Marine Exchange, an organization that helps oversee marine traffic.

The Marine Exchange has also agreed to a non-monetary settlement with Amplify, the statement said. No details of this settlement were immediately released.

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