Refugio Beach Oil Spill

Oil on the beach at Refugio State Park in Santa Barbara, California, on May 19, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard)
Oil on the beach at Refugio State Park in Santa Barbara, California, on May 19, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard)

"We are pleased to join this agreement with industry and our co-trustees to help restore vital habitats, wildlife and recreational areas injured by this oil spill. Local communities and economies depend on these ecosystems, and we look forward to working with the public on projects to restore them to health.”

Nicole LeBouef, acting director of NOAA's National Ocean Service. 



Laurie Sullivan
NOAA Environmental Scientist
Jennifer Boyce
NOAA Restoration Center 

Case Documents

Refugio Beach Oil Spill

Oil Spill | Santa Barbara County, California | May 2015


What Happened?

On May 19, 2015, a pipeline owned and operated by Plains All America Pipeline ruptured near Refugio State Beach.

Over 100,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled, much of which ran down a storm drain and into a ravine under the freeway, entering the ocean.


What Were the Impacts?

Field teams documented dead fish, invertebrates, birds and marine mammals in the oiled areas following the spill. NOAA and its state and federal natural resource co-trustees are investigating the extent to which the incident may have caused harm to fish and wildlife. 

Species impacted include birds (brown pelicans, common murres, Pacific loons, snowy plovers), marine mammals (including California sea lions and dolphins), fish (especially surf perch and grunion), and marine invertebrates and their habitats. 

The spill also shut down fisheries, closed multiple beaches, and impacted recreational uses such as camping, non-commercial fishing, and beach visits. The Trustees held a public meeting on January 20, 2016, to begin soliciting ideas for restoration projects that would compensate for the environmental injuries. 


What's Happening Now?

On March 13, 2020 the Department of Justice announced filing for public comment of a consent decree proposing a $22.3 million settlement to restore natural resources injured by the Refugio Beach oil spill. 

The settlement will go toward resolving natural resource damage claims, to restore habitats and wildlife injured by oil, and to compensate the public for lost recreational opportunities.
To ensure these restoration projects best benefit communities, economies, and ecosystems, these projects will be selected with public input on a draft restoration plan that is to be released in the near future. The public is encouraged to review and comment on the proposed consent decree.

Once completed, the draft DARP will be available for public comment.

In addition, the Trustees have opened the Administrative Record for the NRDA case, which can be found at the link below.  Documents for the Administrative Record will be added as they are completed.


Last updated March 16, 2020