(Reuters) – A Texas oil company agreed to plead guilty to criminal negligence and pay nearly $13 million over a crude oil spill that killed wildlife and soiled Southern California beaches, federal prosecutors said on Friday.
Amplify Energy Corp. repeatedly shut off and on a 17-mile-long underwater pipeline when it could not determine the location of the leak, according to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court, Central District of California.
The Houston-based company and two subsidiaries each agreed to plead guilty to one count of negligent discharge of oil in the October 2021 incident. The pipeline was struck by a ship’s anchor.
The three companies “must make significant improvements that will help prevent future oil spills,”; Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie S. Christensen said in a statement.
The appeal “reflects the commitments we made immediately after the incident to affected parties and is in the best interests of Amplify and its stakeholders,” said Amplify CEO Martyn Willsher.
The spill released about 558 barrels (25,000 gallons) of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean, killing wildlife, blackening the coastline and forcing the closure of beaches south of Los Angeles.
A judge still has to accept the plea agreement. The companies will serve four years of probation, be required to conduct semiannual pipeline inspections and revise and submit an oil spill plan to state wildlife officials, the court filing showed.
Amplify has said it incurred $17.3 million in cleanup costs immediately after the spill.
The company said it reached an agreement in principle with the plaintiffs to resolve the civil claims.