Companies agree to pay $45M over California oil spill

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Shipping companies have agreed to pay $45 million to thousands of Southern California fishermen, tour companies and property owners who sued after an offshore oil spill sent crude washing ashore, attorneys said Thursday.

A tentative settlement was reached after months of negotiations between the MV Beijing and MSC Danit and their associated companies and the businesses and residents who sued them, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said in a statement.

A federal judge still needs to sign off on the agreement for it to take effect.

“Nobody deserves this more than the citizens of Orange County and the coastal community to have this matter resolved quickly,” said Wylie Aitken, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, which include businesses that provide surf lessons and leisure cruises and shops that sell swimwear and fishing bait.

Messages seeking comment were sent via email to attorneys listed for the vessels.

A pipeline owned by Amplify Energy Corp. ruptured and spilled 25,000 gallons (94,600 liters) of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean near Huntington Beach in October 2021. While less severe than initially feared, the spill shuttered beaches in the area for a week, fisheries for more than a month, oiled birds and threatened area wetlands.

Southern California residents and business owners sued the Houston-based oil company seeking compensation for their losses, as well as the shipping vessels that Amplify said damaged the pipeline when they dragged their anchors across it during a January 2021 storm.

Amplify sued the two vessels and an organization that helps oversee marine traffic. A trial on those allegations is scheduled for April 24.

“We are pleased to see the ships that struck our pipeline take responsibility for the damages their negligence caused the community following this event,” Amy Conway, an Amplify spokesperson, said in a statement Thursday.

Amplify last year agreed to pay the plaintiffs $50 million and reached a plea deal with federal authorities for negligently discharging crude.

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