May 23, 2024
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Judge grants preliminary approval of $70M oil spill settlement


A federal judge has granted preliminary approval of a $70 million class action settlement to property owners impacted by a 2015 oil spill along the Santa Barbara coastline.

U.S. District Court Judge Philip Gutierrez issued his ruling May 1, it was announced May 9.

On May 19, 2015, a pipeline ruptured, spilling oil onto private property, Refugio State Beach and into the Pacific Ocean. 

In 1991, Celeron Pipeline Company of California – predecessor to Plains All American Pipeline – built pipelines on 130 miles of private property to transport crude oil and other liquids from the California coast to inland refinery markets in California.

In 2016, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration concluded that the cause of the rupture was integrity management failures by its then-owner, Plains.

The settlement was negotiated by Santa Barbara attorney A. Barry Cappello and his firm Cappello & Noel on behalf of 183 private owners of properties affected by the spill. “The owner of each of the class properties is proposed to receive at least $50,000, with average payments of $230,000,” according to a statement from Cappello & Noel. 

In addition to Cappello & Noël LLP,  the plaintiffs were represented by Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP and Keller Rohrback LLP.  A final hearing on the settlement is scheduled for later this year.