Judge Approves $230 Million Settlement for Fishing Industry Members And Shoreline Residents Damaged By Plains All American Pipeline’s 2015 Santa Barbara Oil Spill 

September 23, 2022
Ocean oil spill

On September 20, Federal District Court Judge Philip S. Gutierrez granted final approval of a combined $230 million class action settlement arising out of Plains All American Pipeline’s 2015 Refugio Oil Spill on the Santa Barbara coast. The court’s approval clears the way for the settlement administrator to begin processing and paying claims submitted by affected fishers and property owners. The settlement was achieved by Class Counsel Keller Rohrback LLP, Cappello & Noël LLP, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, and Audet & Partners. (Keith Andrews et al. v. Plains All American Pipeline, L.P., Case No. 2:15-cv-04113-PSG-JEMx.)

Keller Rohrback Managing Partner, Lynn Sarko had this to say about the settlement: “I am very proud of the hard work that the Keller Rohrback team has put into this lawsuit and in brokering this settlement with Plains. I am honored to be part of an organization that fights to hold corporations accountable for polluting our air, water and natural resources.” 

The settlement includes $184 million to a class of fishers and processors who operated in the areas impacted by the oil spill, as well as $46 million to compensate owners and lessees of property affected by the spill. These amounts, net of attorneys’ fees, costs, and administration expenses, will be distributed to class members who timely submit claims, based on a court-approved distribution plan. 

Judge Gutierrez, who presided over the case since 2015, praised the work of class counsel.

"Having witnessed the complexities of the legal and factual issues at play in this case, the court finds class counsel's litigation efforts notable . . . [t]his in conjunction with the extensive and technical fact and expert discovery, the multiple motions for summary judgment, trial preparations, and three formal daylong mediations underscores the skill and effort needed to achieve the impressive $230 million settlement result."

Individuals who believe they may be eligible may contact the court-appointed administrator, JND Legal, to obtain further information about the settlement, determine whether they are members of the class and, if so, submit their claim forms. The deadline to file a claim is October 31, 2022.  Information about the settlement, including copies of the claim form and instructions on how to submit a claim, are available via the dedicated settlement website, or by contacting JND via email ([email protected]), telephone (1-844-202-9486) or mail (Plains Oil Spill Settlement c/o JND Legal Administration, P.O. Box 91450, Seattle, WA 98111). 

Before the spill, 130 miles of Plains-operated pipeline was used to transport crude oil from the Santa Barbara coast to inland refineries in California. Due to failed maintenance and extensive pipeline corrosion, the pipeline ruptured and spilled, devastating the fishing industry and soiling coastal properties from Santa Barbara County to Los Angeles County. Plains was found criminally liable in 2018 for the oil spill, and this civil settlement was reached as the parties prepared for a civil jury trial slated for June 2022.
Copies of the final settlement documents, and other information, is available on the settlement website.

About Keller Rohrback L.L.P.
Keller Rohrback L.L.P. is a law firm with offices in seven locations throughout the country. Keller Rohrback’s environmental lawyers have a long history of successfully representing individuals and class members in a wide range of important environmental litigation. Whether working for victims of oil spills, fires, communities exposed to toxic materials, or people who purchased contaminated or defective products, Keller Rohrback’s team of experienced environmental litigators have helped to protect people and the environment across the country.