Shipping companies reach $97 million California oil spill deal

Shipping companies will pay nearly $97 million to settle a lawsuit with a pipeline operator over a 2021 oil spill off the coast of Southern California, the pipeline company said on Wednesday. Amplify Energy, the Houston-based company operating the pipeline, said in a statement that companies associated with M/V Danit and M/V Beijing have agreed to the payments.

Amplify accused the ships of pulling anchor in the waters off California and hitting the pipeline during a January 2021 storm, leading to the spilling of 25,000 gallons (94,600 liters) of crude oil into the Pacific months later.

Once the payments are made, Amplify said it will drop its claims against the shipping companies.

“The resolution of Amplify’s claims against the vessels and their affiliates completes our participation in litigation relating to the 2021 pipeline incident,” said Martyn Willsher, Amplify’s president and chief executive, in the statement.

Messages were sent to the shipping companies’ lawyers for comment.

The oil spill, while less severe than initially feared, sent chunks of crude oil ashore, shutting down beaches for a week and fisheries for more than a month, oiling birds and threatening wetlands.

Southern California fishermen, tourism companies and property owners are suing Amplify and the shipping vessels for compensation for their losses. Amplify agreed to pay $50 million and the ships agreed to pay $45 million to settle these lawsuits.

Amplify, which reached a settlement with federal authorities over negligent dumping of crude oil, sued the ships and the Marine Exchange, an organization that helps monitor maritime traffic.

The Marine Exchange has also reached a non-monetary settlement with Amplify, the statement said. No details of this settlement were immediately released.

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