Plains Not Complying with Spill Investigation?

Oil Pipeline Company Reportedly Fails to Turn Over Documents Demanded by Prosecutors

<strong>PAYING THE PIPER:</strong> Cleanup workers bag oily sand right after the spill.
Paul Wellman (file)

Santa Barbara prosecutors filed a petition in court earlier this month after Plains All American Pipeline ​— ​the company responsible for the Refugio Oil Spill ​— ​allegedly failed to comply with the demands of the civil investigation. In early August, prosecutors requested Plains produce within 30 days “any and all” documents connected to the May rupture, including analysis of crude leaked, seven years of maintenance records for the pipeline, data from the smart-pig inspections, and efforts to safeguard culverts that allowed spilled oil to enter to the ocean, among other demands.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Kelly Scott said she has not yet received any materials. “Plains has not shown any good-faith effort to answer the Santa Barbara community,” she said. “We do not accept that answers to our requests should occur at some point convenient for Plains.”

Plains spokesperson Meredith Matthews said in a statement that the company is in discussions with officials regarding the terms of a protective order ​— ​that would prohibit the DA’s Office from sharing the materials ​— ​“that will facilitate document production.” In court filings, Scott alleged Plains attorneys failed to produce a draft protective order on the agreed-upon date, October 9. Separate from civil penalties, both county and state prosecutors might file criminal violations against Plains executives by late spring. Commercial fishermen filed a civil suit against Plains earlier this month, alleging, among many things, the spill will continue to damage lobster fishing for up to seven years after the spill, when the young lobsters killed off by pollution would have reached market size.

The spill aftermath was discussed Tuesday at a disaster council convened by Supervisor Janet Wolf, who had previously expressed frustration that the county did not assert enough control during press conferences, as they were told the Unified Command had to speak with one voice. On Tuesday, Environmental Defense Center Chief Counsel Linda Krop argued the county should better pre-train volunteers, contended an after-action review should have happened 30 days after the spill, and called for better public participation. Office of Emergency Management Director Ryan Rockabrand conceded volunteer-training efforts could be better but disagreed about the immediacy of the after-action review.


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