Damaged Pipeline Leaks Oil Into Ocean

Plains All American Pipeline, an oil company in Santa Barbara, leaked 105,000 gallons of crude oil after a pipeline ruptured last Tuesday.

However, the causes of the ruptured pipeline remain unknown. Ted Mar, the chief of the prevention branch of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, elaborated on why the exact causes have not been identified. 

“Pipelines are everywhere throughout the East Bay complex, and where there are pipelines there is the possibility of a rupture,” Mar said to SFGate. “There are all sorts of different reasons a pipeline might fail.”

The federal government responded to this disaster by ordering Plains All American Pipeline to temporarily stop production in order to make safety adjustments and clean up the spill. 

According to an online press release, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris also launched an investigation into the oil spill. 

“California’s coastline is one of the state’s most precious natural treasures. This oil spill has scarred the scenic Santa Barbara coast, natural habitats and wildlife,” Harris said. “My office is working closely with our state and federal partners on an investigation of this conduct to ensure we hold responsible parties accountable.” 

Plains All American Pipeline responded to the government’s request to clean up the spill. Senior Director of Safety and Security Patrick Hodgins told the Associated Press that the company is committed to cleaning up the oil spill. 

“Our goal is zero [spills]. Are we happy with this unfortunate event? Absolutely not,” Hodgins said. “We’re going to be here until it is taken care of.”

Furthermore, the company issued a statement with its intent to stop the flow of the oil spill. 

“The culvert has been blocked so no additional oil is reaching the water,” the statement said. “Plains deeply regrets this release has occurred and is making every effort to limit its environmental impact.”

Some believe that Plains All American Pipeline could have prevented the oil spill if it had complied with Santa Barbara County regulations, which require certain tools controlling pipelines that could stop the flow of oil spills if they occur. However, the company contested this and successfully took the issue to court, arguing that since their pipelines crossed state lines, they should follow federal guidelines instead of local regulations. 

Linda Krop, a representative of the Environmental Defense Center, the leading advocacy group on oil and gas exploration in the Santa Barbara area, believes that the disaster could have been prevented. 

“It’s really frustrating,” Krop said in an interview with the Earth Island Journal. “The technology existed to shut the pipeline automatically. If they’d had it, there would have been no leak into the ocean.”

The U.S. Coast Guard has also been working on cleaning up the oil spill. However, Capt. Jennifer Williams of the U.S. Coast Guard explained to reporters from NBC that the spill is not even close to being completely removed. 

“Cleanup doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a moving target when you’re talking about oil on the water. It’s a very difficult process,” Williams said. “It could take months.”

The U.S. Coast Guard reported to CNN that 10,000 gallons of oily water have been removed, in addition to 800 cubic yards of oily soil and 91 cubic yards of oily solids removed from beaches. 

Environmental activists have denounced the oil firm and called on the government to stop future oil projects. Activists have pointed out numerous wildlife have been negatively affected by the oil spill. Currently one seal and six pelicans have been found covered in oil. An undisclosed number of animals have been killed by the oil spill. 

Though this oil spill is large, it is significantly smaller than the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, which leaked more than 2 million gallons. The U.S. Coast Guard and the oil company will continue to clean up the spill. 

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