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The Ontario-headquartered law firm McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP,* filed a seven-claim class action lawsuit against Amplify Energy Corp., the company operating the Long Beach pipeline and oil rig that leaked Oct. 2. The suit joins 12 others filed against the company in the California Central District Court in October, but is the only case from an Inland Empire firm. MWA also has an office in Irvine.

The burst pipeline was initially thought to have leaked 131,000 gallons of oil, but the coast guard has revised the estimate to 25,000 gallons, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Amplify Energy has not yet responded to the filing, but said in a press release that “Amplify Energy is committed to safely operating in a way that ensures the protection of the environment and the surrounding communities – communities where many of our employees live and raise their families.”

MWA, with co-representation from Costa Mesa-headquartered Larson, LLP, represents Big Fish Bait & Tackle, a fishing supply store in Seal Beach.

At the center of the case is the argument that the oil spill reduced tourism, recreational fishing, professional fishing, and beachfront recreation to the point of harming businesses.

The store states that business at Big Fish Bait & Tackle dropped 50% after the oil spill, compared to pandemic levels at the same time last year, and that the store lost valuable perishable inventory.

The suit complains that Amplify Energy did not bury the pipeline, was negligently unaware that its pipeline was moved by an unknown force months ago, had an inept sensor that did not report the leak in time, and did not shut off the pipeline, alert authorities or follow its own leak protocol when the leak was discovered.

One of the listed claims is under California’s Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act, which reads “A responsible party…shall be absolutely liable without regard to fault for any damages incurred by any injured person that arise out of, or are caused by, a spill.”

The OSPRA holds an operator liable for any loss of profits or impairment of earning capacity due to the injury, destruction, or loss of real property, personal property, or natural resources.

A second claim is under the Federal Oil Pollution Act, which holds responsible parties liable to harms of revenue, profits and earning capacity.

Both laws were initially passed in 1990, and the state law was inspired by the 11 million gallon Alaskan Exxon Valdez Spill, and the 416,598 Huntington Beach American Trader spill, according to a 2014 statement from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

California outlawed offshore oil drilling in state water in 1994, but the oil rig whose pipeline leaked operated in federal waters, outside of state control.

In 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that prevented the construction of any new oil pipelines in state waters, effectively cutting off distribution for any oil rigs in federal waters.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) called for a ban on oil drilling in federal waters across the Pacific Coast Jan. 27, which was co-sponsored by California’s Sen. Alex Padilla (D) and the senators from Washington and Oregon. It has not moved since it was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which has been chaired by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) since Feb. 3. A house companion bill has also not been read since it was referred to the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Feb. 23, which is currently chaired by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach).

Among the plaintiffs in the other class action lawsuits against Amplify Energy are Charlie’s Gyros, Brad’s Live Local Lobster, Newport Surfrider and Davey’s Locker Sportfishing. An Orange County minor is attempting, through her guardian, to sue for a class of coastal children whose health would be impacted by the spill.

Royal Dutch Shell built the oil platform in 1980, and its then-owner sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2017, according to LAist.

Amplify Energy was registered in California in 2017, according to the Secretary of State’s online business search.

Past oil spills off the Pacific Coast 

Location, year, gallons of oil 

  • Santa Barbara, 1969, 4.2 million 
  • San Francisco Bay, 1971, 800,000 
  • Huntington Beach, 1990, 416,000 
  • San Francisco Bay, 2007, 58,000 
  • Refugio State Beach, 2015, 100,000 
  • Huntington Beach, 2021, 25,000-131,000 

*Follow Our Courts is funded by McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP.

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