A lawsuit representing oil industry workers who were laid off following the Refugio oil spill was filed against Plains All American Pipeline, Santa Barbara-based law firm Cappello & Noel recently announced.
Richard Lilygren, who has worked on the offshore oil platforms near Santa Barbara for more than a decade, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of all oil and gas workers impacted by the Line 901 and 903 shut downs, which Plains own. Lilygren lost his job on the Harvest platform near Point Arguello after the May 19 spill and says he has been unable to find comparable employment since.
“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,” said Lawrence Conlan, a partner at Cappello & Noel, which represents the plaintiffs in the class-action filing that seeks $5 million in damages.
The city of Santa Barbara, fishermen and homeowners have also filed lawsuits against Plains, among others. The Shareholders Foundation filed a suit claiming that the oil company provided “false and misleading statements” about company policies on pipeline maintenance and monitoring. Plaintiffs allege the spill and the company’s response resulted in a 30 percent decline in the price of Plains’ securities and a 20 percent drop in the value of Plains GP Holdings Class A shares.
Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, authored a bill that would mandate the newest technology such as automatic shut-off valves be used on pipelines, which Line 901 did not have. The bill, AB 864, passed the Senate and Assembly and is sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
“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,” said Barry Cappello, managing partner at Cappello & Noël. “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.”