UPDATE: California Governor Jerry Brown declares State of Emergency for Santa Barbara County. An offshore oil spill reportedly leaked 21,000 gallons of oil in the ocean off the Refugio State Beach coast line. Officials now fear that over 105,000 gallons of crude oil could have leaked from ‘Plains All-American Pipelines’ underground pipeline. Not the first serious oil spill for Texas-based ‘Plain All-American Pipeline’. First wave of oil to hit Goleta beach later today.
— ABC News (@ABC) May 20, 2015
On Tuesday, May 19, emergency crews were alerted of a potential oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast line, along Refugio State Beach line west of Goleta. According to KEYT, crews arrived on scene around 11.42 am to check up on the reported leak.
KEYT, basing themselves on the U.S. Coast Guard, reports that the oil spill is about 9 miles wide. Richard Abrams, emergency manager with the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management, reported that the oil spill originated from an underground pipeline that ruptured along the coast line.
It is still unknown how much oil spilled, but according to the LA Times, around 21,000 gallons of oil leaked into the ocean. According to officials, a 24-inch ruptured pipeline is responsible for the spill. Emergency and clean-up crews started with the clean up along the coast line. On Wednesday, officials feared that over 105,000 gallons of oil could have leaked from the underground pipeline. According to The Independent, the pipeline is able to “shuttle an estimated 50,400 gallons per hour”. The water current and waves not only dragged the oil out on the ocean, but also got vast amounts of oil on the beach. Along with the spill comes a strong oil smell that carriers for miles.
According to Alexia Retallack, spokeswoman for The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR), people have been send “to the scene, including three wardens and an environmental scientist.”
This afternoon, Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency for Santa Barbara County after the Refugio Oil Spill. “This emergency proclamation cuts red tape and helps the state quickly mobilize all available resources,” said Governor Brown. “We will do everything necessary to protect California’s coastline.”
— Matt Johnson (@MattCBS8) May 21, 2015
The effect on wildlife, fish, and the environment are still unknown, but clean-up crews have been sent to the area to assist with removing the oil from the beach. Everybody willing to volunteer can do so under californiavolunteers.org.
California Spill Watch OSPR urges people to NOT pick up any birds or other wildlife covered in oil, but to call professionals to help the animals. The number is +1 877-823-6926. According to their latest Twitter post, about 300 responders and 18 boats are involved in the clean-up.
— Cal Spill Watch OSPR (@CalSpillWatch) May 21, 2015
‘Plains All-American Pipeline’ hired hundreds of professional clean-up members, with more coming in every day. On Wednesday, Plains also required to be able to work on the clean-up 24/7, and this request was promptly granted. The State of Emergency for Santa Barbara County, declared by Governor Brown, allows to make all possible resources available for the clean-up of the oil spill. Refugio State Beach coast line is a crucial breeding habitat for many native species, and reports about dead fish and birds are numerous.
Karen M. Rugaard, Senior Communication Analyst at Plains All-American Pipelines, said that an internal inspection of the pipeline was conducted in 2012 and also a few weeks ago, but the whole results of that inspection were not available yet. It is not known yet what caused the rupture that allowed up to 105,000 gallons of crude oil to leak, and no conclusive cause can be made available until the pipe is excavated.
By Wednesday 9am approximately 6,090 gallons of crude oil have been removed either through vacuum trucks, skimmer boats, and other resources. Efforts to collect more oil continue in the ocean, on the beach, and around the origin of the oil spill. On Thursday, Plains reported that over 7,770 gallons of oil were skimmed from the ocean, but no other independent sources are available right now to confirm the numbers.
At 12.49 PM today, Goleta declared a state of emergency, asking for help from state and federal in order to prepare for the first oil slick to hit the area later today. No beach closures have been made yet, but officials urge the public to avoid going to the beach.
— Heal the Bay (@HealTheBay) May 20, 2015
Plains All-American Pipeline, the owner of the ruptured pipeline at Refugio State Beach, has a long history of oil spills. KEYT reported, basing themselves on the EPA and U.S. Department of Justice, that the company has had “10 serious crude oil spills in four different states” and that the company was fined $3.25 million civil penalty for violation against the Clean Water Act. Pipelines run by Plains All-American Pipeline discharged over 273,000 gallons of crude oil between June 2004 and September 2007, according to the EPA. According to the EPA, ‘Plains All-American Pipelines’ also decided to spend $41 million to upgrade over 10,000 miles of pipeline in the United States. That’s less than $4,100 per mile.
This is not the first oil spill in Santa Barbara history. The biggest spill, and the third biggest in US history, happened off the Santa Barbara coast in January 1969, when approximately 80,000 barrels of crude oil leaked from a platform blowout.
Stay tuned for more information about the oil spill and the clean-up.