February 7, 2023
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Judge denies Plains’ motion to set aside criminal indictment over oil spill


Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Jean Dandona denied defense counsels’ motions to set aside the criminal indictment against Plains All American Pipeline and James Buchanan, the environmental and regulatory compliance specialist for Plains, with the exception of one misdemeanor count against Buchanan, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley said Feb. 21.

Plains was indicted on 46 felony counts for the May 2015 oil spill that soiled the Gaviota Coast. Plains did not prepare nor maintain its pipelines properly and did not notify the proper authorities quickly enough following the spill, the indictment along with multiple reports from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration claim.

The felony charges include discharging oil into state and federal waters in violation of the Clean Water Act, knowingly causing a hazardous substance to spill on any road, street, highway or railroad, and knowingly making false or misleading reports following the spill.

Plains and Buchanan knowingly failed to immediately notify the California Office of Emergency Services and failed to call the National Response Center within an hour after the spill, according to the indictment. Buchanan was not charged with any felonies and faces a maximum jail sentence of three years.

The court also ruled late last month that the case would remain in Santa Barbara County after denying defense counsels’ motion to change venue. It is set for a readiness and settlement conference on March 2.

• Contact Glenn Rabinowitz at grabinowitz@pacbiztimes.com.