Operator of leaking oil infrastructure has record of violations
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Operator of leaking oil infrastructure has record of violations

The company that operates the pipeline responsible for the oil spill off the Southern California coast has been cited by federal regulators for more than 100 violations over the past 11 years, including at least two that led to worker injuries, government and court records show.

Beta Operating Company LLC, has had 125 incidents of non-compliance documented by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, a federal agency that oversees the offshore drilling industry. Of those, bureau records show, 53 were warnings, 71 were “component shut-in” violations, and one was a “facility shut-in” violation.

Warnings must be corrected “within a reasonable amount of time” specified by the agency, while shut-in violations “must be corrected before the operator is allowed to continue the activity in question,” according to the bureau’s website.

Most recently, Beta received a warning on September 29, just days before the leak, according to bureau records — although no details about the warning were immediately available. The company’s facilities were inspected by the bureau on September 28 and 30.

Beta is a subsidiary of Amplify Energy, a small public company whose shares fell steeply in the wake of the disaster. Representatives from Amplify did not respond to requests for comment from CNN on Monday. A spokesperson for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said the agency is working to gather more details about its past inspections of the facilities.

Beta was fined a total of $85,000 in 2013 and 2014 for three incidents, according to bureau records — one of which involved the release of oil. In a 2014 case, an investigation by the bureau found that “crude oil was released through the flare boom,” a report said. “A safety device was bypassed for reasons other than startup, maintenance or testing and was not properly flagged or monitored.” More details on the incident were not immediately available.

Two other cases involved worker injuries. In 2012, a piece of equipment “fell and struck an employee resulting in injuries to the head and face.” And in 2014, “investigators discovered that an injured party received an electric shock of an estimated 98,000 volts at very low amperage,” another document said, noting that the injured person was “not wearing proper personal protective equipment.”

Some of the cases were first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Between October 2013 and September 2014, there were at least 18 incidents that involved worker injuries at Beta facilities, according to a report from the bureau, although most were minor.

Beta operates the Elly and Ellen platforms off the coast of Long Beach, which are believed to be the source of the oil leak.

The facilities operating the pipeline were built in the late 1970s and early 1980s and are inspected every other year, Amplify CEO Martyn Willsher said at a news conference Sunday. He said company employees noticed the oil spill and notified the Coast Guard on Saturday.

The spill has caused an estimated 126,000 gallons of crude oil to leak off the California coast, according to authorities.

Amplify, Beta’s parent company, went through bankruptcy several years ago. Memorial Production Partners LP, a Houston-based company, filed for bankruptcy in January 2017, and the case was closed in May 2018, with the company’s name changed to Amplify Energy Corp., according to court records. In its bankruptcy petition, the company listed more than $2.4 billion in assets and more than $2 billion in debts.

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