Refugio Beach - Plains Pipeline Spill

State TrusteeState of California
Federal TrusteeDepartment of Commerce
AO Bureau

Also Known As


Incident Type




Case Status



Goleta, Santa Barbara County



Contaminants of Concern Include


Affected DOI Resources Include

Marine Mammals, Migratory Birds, Recreational Use Loss, Threatened and Endangered Species, DOI Managed Lands

Financial Summary

Restoration Funds Collected:


*Restoration Funds Allocated:


*Restoration Funds Remaining:


* Restoration Funds can contain multiple settlements/projects. All collections are placed in interest bearing accounts. For detailed information on individual settlements/ projects please visit: NRDAR Status Report

Visit the Withdrawal Request Form to request restoration funds. Login required.

Case Description

On May 19, 2015, a 24-inch diameter on-shore pipeline (Line 901) that extends approximately 10.7 miles along the Santa Barbara County coastline in California ruptured resulting in the release of approximately 2,934 barrels (bbl) of heavy crude oil. Line 901 is a buried, insulated pipeline that transported heated crude oil from Exxon Mobil’s storage tanks in Las Flores Canyon westward to Plains’ Gaviota Pumping Station. The pipeline is owned and operated by Plains Pipeline, L.P., a subsidiary of Plains All-American Pipeline Company. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration determined that the cause of the Line 901 failure was external corrosion that thinned the pipe wall to a level where it ruptured suddenly and released heavy crude oil. Crude oil from the buried pipeline saturated the soil and flowed into a culvert that crosses under Highway 101 and railroad tracks and ultimately discharged into the Pacific Ocean near Refugio State Beach. The crude oil that entered the ocean posed a significant risk to and injured marine plants and wildlife, including seagrasses, kelp, invertebrates, fish, birds, and mammals. In addition to direct natural resource impacts, the closure of beaches and fisheries occurred just days before the Memorial Day weekend resulting in losses for local businesses and lost opportunities for the public to visit and enjoy the shore and offshore areas. Some tar balls attributable to the Line 901 release were carried by southerly ocean currents and eventually reached some beaches in Los Angeles County. In parallel with the response and clean-up effort, the natural resources trustee agencies conducted a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) to quantify the injuries to natural resources from the spill and assess natural resource damages. In this case, the Trustees for the natural resources injured by the spill include the United States Department of Commerce represented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the United States Department of the Interior represented by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management; the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Office of Spill Prevention and Response; the California Department of Parks and Recreation; the California State Lands Commission; and the Regents of the University of California. The trustees settled the NRDA as part of a global settlement of other environmental state and federal civil claims. Damages totaled $22.3 million, including $2.2 million for bird restoration, $2.3 million for marine mammal restoration, $5.5 million for shoreline habitat restoration, $6.1 for subtidal and fish habitat restoration, $3.9 million for human use and recreational improvements, and $2 million for administration and oversight.

Sediment porewater sample location showing oil sheen on the surface, Credit: Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees

Flow path of the Line 901 pipeline rupture into culverts under Highway 101 and railroad tracks and ultimately into the Pacific Ocean at Refugio State Beach. , Credit: John Wiley

Page 1 of 3

Case Documents

 Document TypeDocument NameDocument Date


 Consent Decree Refugio Consent Decree  


 Restoration Plan Final Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment  

Map View

Case Contact

Sacramento Fish & Wildlife Office

Sacramento, CA | (916) 414-6600 |

If you have any problems, suggestions, or comments about our website please notify

Content Protected Copyright © 2022 NRDAR. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written consent of NRDAR is Strictly Prohibited.