By June 25, 2015 Read More →

California oil spill: Beachfront owner files class action against pipeline company

3,000 coastal landowners join in lawsuit over California oil spill

California oil spill

Citing spoiled property and beaches as far as the Mexican border, Alexandra Geremia filed a class action lawsuit against the pipeline company responsible for the California oil spill last May. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg)

A Santa Barbara County beachfront property owner is the latest in a string of people to file proposed class-action lawsuits against the operators of the pipeline that spilled up to 101,000 gallons of oil on the coast last month.

Alexandra Geremia’s lawsuit filed Tuesday seeks to represent more than 3,000 other coastal landowners in Southern California against Plains All American Pipeline for the May 19 spill that blackened shoreline and spread oil at least 100 miles to Los Angeles County beaches.

Popular campgrounds have been closed, commercial fishing has been prohibited nearby, and nearly 300 dead marine mammals and birds have been found after the spill.

Geremia claims the spill spoiled her family’s property and beaches as far as the Mexican border.

“Oil invaded … beachfront properties, covering them with toxic crude, coating the shoreline, and clinging to rocks, sand, and the animals it touched,” the lawsuit says. “Noxious odour of crude oil has permeated the air, drenched wildlife with oil, and left miles of previously pristine shoreline covered in thick black tar.”

The lawsuit mirrors others filed this month in Los Angeles federal court that mention the large number of spills Plains has had in the past decade and alleges the Texas company should have had automatic shut-off valves that could have prevented California’s worst coastal spill in 25 years.

The pipeline is the only major one of its kind in the county without such valves because its original owner successfully sued decades ago that it was under the jurisdiction of federal regulators and not subject to county regulations.

Such valves aren’t required under federal law ,and Plains said an accidental shut-off could create pressure problems.

The company, which has reported 229 spills since 2006, has said it regrets the incident and is addressing claims filed against it. A spokeswoman said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Three other lawsuits seeking class-action status have been filed by a commercial fisherman, a Santa Barbara shop owner and a tour guide. All said the spill had harmed their livelihood and that of others who earn a living from the sea or from the area’s bustling tourist industry.

El Capitan State Beach and its campground, which have been closed since the spill, are scheduled to reopen Friday. Refugio State Beach is expected to be closed until at least July 9.

The Associated Press

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