Oil Industry Class Certified in Santa Barbara Oil Spill

A U.S. District Court judge certified a class of oil workers and businesses contracted to provide services, supplies or personnel to seven offshore oil platforms and three onshore processing facilities impacted by Plains All American Pipeline’s May 19, 2015 oil pipeline rupture near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County. (Keith Andrews, et. al. vs. Plains All American Pipeline, L.P., Case No. CV 15-4113PSG), U.S. District Court, Central District of Calif., February 9, 2018).

The certified class includes “Individuals and entities who were employed, or contracted, to work on or to provide supplies, personnel, or services for the operations of the off-shore oil drilling platforms, Hidalgo, Harvest, Hermosa, Heritage, Harmony, Hondo, and/or Holly, off the Santa Barbara County coast, or the on-shore processing facilities at Las Flores/POPCO, Gaviota, and/or Venoco/Ellwood, as of May 19, 2015.”

The Santa Barbara oil industry produced approximately 1.4 million barrels of oil in 2014. By 2016, after the spill, offshore barrel production dropped to zero. “We estimate that there are more than 500 platform and refinery workers who have been impacted, as well as hundreds of small businesses,” says A. Barry Cappello, managing partner of Cappello & Noël LLP and lead trial attorney for the plaintiffs. “These are people who have been out of work or underemployed, living on loans and with their extended families since the spill. We’re closing in on three years since the disaster and class members are still suffering. Oil contracting businesses have been decimated, losing millions of dollars in contracts.”

In the February 9 Order, Judge Philip S. Gutierrez also provided guidance on a real property class that would be suitable for certification, including residential properties on the coast and with easement access to beaches where Plains’ oil washed ashore.

Because of the Plains’ pipeline rupture, approximately 140,000 gallons of oil emptied onto public and private land. An investigation showed that the pipeline rupture was due to maintenance neglect and extensive pipeline corrosion. Misdemeanor and felony charges against Plains were brought by the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office. A jury trial is set to begin in March in Santa Barbara Superior Court.

Cappello & Noël, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, Keller Rohrback LLP and Audet & Partners are representing class members.

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