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Trial Date Set for Refugio Oil Spill Criminal Case Against Plains All-American Pipeline

A Feb. 5 trial date has been set for the Refugio Oil Spill-related criminal case against Plains All-American Pipeline, and the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office on Wednesday dismissed the charge against Kern County-based employee James Colby Buchanan. 

Plains owns and operates the 24-inch oil and gas pipeline that ruptured on May 19, 2015, spilling 123,228 gallons onto the coastline and into the Pacific Ocean near Refugio State Beach. 

The company faces felony and misdemeanor charges including discharging a pollutant into state waters, knowingly making a false or misleading oil spill report to the California Office of Emergency Services, failing to notify the National Response Center within one hour after confirmation of a pipeline release of oil, and violating the Fish and Game code by taking protected and migratory birds, and other animals (which died as a result of the spill).

Buchanan, an environmental and regulatory compliance specialist for Plains, was charged with failing to notify authorities after confirming the spill and the source of the spill.

The District Attorney's Office said Wednesday that Buchanan's charge will be dropped before trial, and an amended indictment will be filed. 

Buchanan will be subpoenaed to appear as a witness in the trial, according to the District Attorney's Office.

The jury trial will be held in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, after a judge denied Plains' attempts to move the proceedings elsewhere.

An investigative report on the Refugio Oil Spill found that Plains failed to detect the spill and the corrosion that caused it.

Plains announced last year that it plans to replace its 120 miles of pipeline, which run through Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern counties in addition to some federal lands, instead of repairing the lines.  

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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