Plains All American Pipeline's Line 901, which ruptured in 2015, causing the Refugio Oil Spill. Exxon, which now owns the pipeline, is seek to install valves on the line. Credit: Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo

Two crude oil pipelines in Santa Barbara and adjacent counties owned by beleaguered Plains All American have been acquired by oil giant ExxonMobil.

“ExxonMobil has signed an agreement with Plains All American Pipeline to acquire lines 901 and 903 located in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern counties,” said Julie L. King, an ExxonMobil spokeswoman. “A team from ExxonMobil Pipeline Company will conduct a thorough inspection of the pipelines to determine how to safely and responsibly return them to service.”

On May 19, 2015, Plains’ pipeline 901 ruptured near Refugio State Beach, spilling up to 630,000 gallons, or 15,000 barrels, of crude oil onto the shoreline and into the ocean. Plains was found criminally liable in 2018 for the oil spill because of failed maintenance and extensive pipeline corrosion. 

According to the Justice Department, the discharge was caused by Plains’ failure to address external corrosion and have adequate control-room procedures in place, and was further exacerbated by Plains’ failure to respond properly.

In Santa Barbara, a Superior Court judge in 2019 ordered Plains to pay a $3.3 million criminal fine for the Refugio oil spill.

The spill devastated the fishing industry and polluted coastal properties from Santa Barbara County to Los Angeles County. Plains All American Pipeline also in May of this year agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit, and pay $230 million to fishers, fish processors, and shoreline property residents damaged by the Refugio oil spill in 2015. 

“Plains confirms the sale of Pipelines 901 and 903 from Gaviota to Pentland to Pacific Pipeline Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mobil Pacific Pipeline Company,” said Steve Greig. director of government affairs for Plains All American Pipeline. “This mutually beneficial transaction, which closed on Oct. 13, 2022, aligns with our strategy of supporting customers while exercising capital discipline.”

Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Center, has questions about the acquistion of the 123-mile pipeline route.

“We will continue to monitor the county’s environmental review process, and ask if there will be any changes to the project,” Krop said. “Our goal is to make sure that the county discloses all of the impacts of the pipeline project, including the impacts from restarting the platforms.”

ExxonMobil in May filed a lawsuit against the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors after the board voted to deny the company’s proposal to restart the Santa Ynez Unit oil and gas production and truck the oil to out-of-county refineries pending the pipelines returning to service.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.