A class action lawsuit against Plains All American Pipeline was filed September 4 on behalf of oil industry workers who were laid off as a result of the company’s May 19, 2015 oil pipeline rupture near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County. (Richard Lilygren v. Plains All American Pipeline, L.P., et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Case No. 2:15-cv-07051, September 4, 2015).
The ruptured pipeline spewed an estimated 140,000 gallons of oil onto the land, beaches and coastal waters of the central coast and as far south as Orange County. The lawsuit states that the rupture of Plains’ line 90l, the massive oil spill and the subsequent closure of line 903 resulted in a “systematic shutdown of local oil and gas facilities, both onshore and offshore. Workers at these facilities have lost their jobs and their livelihoods.”
“When the pipeline was built in 1987, Plains refused to install an automatic shut-off valve system on the pipeline to ensure that it would shut down swiftly at the first sign of a problem. Plains also refused to allow county officials to inspect the safety of the pipeline,” says A. Barry Cappello, managing partner of the Santa Barbara law firm Cappello & Noël LLP, which represents the plaintiffs in the class action filing. “Not only did Plains’ actions cause tremendous damage to California’s pristine coastline, but it put many local people out of work, causing great economic hardship.”
Line 901 has been found to have extensive corrosion throughout its length. The lax safety standards for line 901 are not isolated incidents for Plains, says the complaint. Since 2006, Plains has been cited for more than 175 violations of safety requirements, which have caused nearly $24 million in property damage. Eleven of those incidents were in California. Plains is one of the top four most cited pipeline operators in the country for safety violations by the EPA and other governmental agencies.
The named plaintiff in the class action lawsuit is Richard Lilygren who has worked the offshore oil platforms near Santa Barbara for more than a decade. On July 13, 2015, following the oil spill and shutdown of local oil and gas operations, Mr. Lilygren was terminated from his job as an operator on the Harvest platform near Point Arguello. He has been out of work since, and unable to find comparable employment. “Mr. Lilygren asked Plains to compensate him for his lost wages, and they said they would take care of him. But when he presented his documentation, Plains denied his claim,” says Lawrence J. Conlan, a partner at Cappello & Noël working on the case.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all individuals working in the oil and gas industry on or near the central coast of California, whether as employees or independent contractors, who have lost earnings or had their ability to earn impaired because of the May 19 oil spill.
The class action was filed under the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act, which provides that “[a] responsible party, as defined in Section 8670.3, shall be absolutely liable without regard to fault for any damages incurred by any injured party that arise out of, or are caused by, a spill.” Cal. Gov. Code Section 8670.56.5(a).
For a copy of the complaint, click here.
Oil Industry Workers File Class Action Lawsuit Against Plains All American Pipeline
KEYT-TV, September 14, 2015