Judge Certifies Property Owners' Easement Class Action Against Plains All American Pipeline

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Source: Law Office of Cappello & Noël

On January 28, 2020, United States District Court Judge Philip Gutierrez certified a class-action lawsuit filed against Plains All American Pipeline by Santa Barbara County property owners who have easement contracts with Plains and whose properties were impacted during the 2015 Refugio oil spill. (Grey Fox, LLC et. al v. Plains All American Pipeline, L.P., et. al, U.S. District Court, Central District, Case Number 2:16-cv-03157-PSG-JEM, December 17, 2018). The property owners are represented by Cappello & Noël LLP, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP and Keller Rohrback LLP; Barry Cappello is lead trial counsel.

In 1991, Plains predecessor, Celeron Pipeline Company of California, built pipelines on 130 miles of private property to transport crude oil and other liquids from the California coast to inland refinery markets in California. At the time, property owners signed easement contracts allowing Lines 901 and 903 pipelines to be built on their property.

The easement contracts state that the pipeline owners would maintain, operate and repair the pipeline as needed. "Property owners relied on Plains to maintain the old pipelines, but Plains didn't. Plains let them deteriorate and break. Now Plains is asserting that the old easement gives them the right -- for up to two years -- to rip up miles of vineyards, ranchlands, farms, pristine coastal private property to install a new pipeline system next to the old pipeline, without adequate compensation," says Cappello.

The class action will determine if Plains will be prevented from using the old easements for its new easement across the properties. If Plains is prevented, it can get its  new pipeline but it  will have to pay for it.

"The new pipeline system will take almost two years to build, require hundreds of workers and vehicles, create extensive construction noise, dust, vibrations and toxins," says Cappello. "Plains will need nearly twice the easement than was required when building the original pipelines. Property owners want to ensure they are properly compensated and their property is  protected."

Notification of the class certification will be sent to all affected property owners.

The law firms also are representing two other certified subclasses against Plains involving the oil spill: fisheries and beachfront and beach easement property owners/renters. They also are seeking compensation for 500 oil workers who were terminated from their jobs on the oil platforms and onshore facilities when Plains shut down the pipeline.

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