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article imageCriminal charges possible in California coast oil spill

By Nathan Salant     May 23, 2015 in Environment
Goleta - State and county officials in California say they're considering criminal charges stemming from Tuesday's 20,000-gallon oil spill from a pipeline near Refugio State Beach off the Santa Barbara coast.
Local, state and federal investigators got involved in spill and cleanup efforts on Wednesday, one day after oil flowed from a break in a pipeline for several hours and contaminated the beach and coastal waters.
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley said she already was in contact with the U.S. Attorney's Office and California Attorney General's Office to pursue possible criminal and civil penalties against the Houston-based company that owns the pipeline.
"I am working with the federal government and the attorney general's office to look into potential criminal, and/or civil prosecution," Dudley said, according to the [url=http:// t=_blank]Reuters news service.
Officials with the pipeline company, Plains All American Pipeline LP, which operates thousands of miles of lines in 46 states, apologized for the spill and pledged to maintain cleanup efforts until all damage was repaired.
"We're sorry this accident has happened, and we're sorry for the inconvenience to the community," a company district manager, Darren Palmer, told a news conference.
Refugio and nearby El Capitan State Beach have been closed for the three-day Memorial Day weekend, normally one of the busiest times of the year.
Hundreds of trained and volunteer workers fanned out along a nine-mile section of coastline to help clean up oil that has washed ashore and to safe save marine animals affected by the spill.
Oil-soaked birds and shellfish were visible along the shore.
That the spill occurred in Santa Barbara County was particularly ironic, since Santa Barbara was the site of a 3 million gallon oil spill in 1969 that is credited with inspiring the modern U.S. environmental movement.
Dudley told Reuters that she was working with the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles and with investigators from the state Attorney General's Office in Sacramento.
The state's top law enforcement official, Kamala Harris, recently announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate, Reuters said.
"My office is working closely with our state and federal partners on an investigation of this conduct to ensure we hold responsible parties accountable," Harris said.
Plains All American said it has more than 100 employees in California helping to respond to the spill, and would be sending more.
Company CEO Greg Armstrong arrived in Santa Barbara on Wednesday to oversee cleanup efforts, the company said.
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