Official says pipeline firm violated state guidelines for reporting Santa Barbara spill

27 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

California oil spill: Regulators, lawmakers scrutinize company response.

LOS ANGELES — A petroleum pipeline company said Friday that oil from a Santa Barbara, California, spill spread more than 100 miles to Los Angeles County beaches. The Texas owner of the crude oil pipeline that ruptured along the Santa Barbara County coast last month did not meet state guidelines for reporting an oil spill, a top state official said at an oversight hearing Friday.WASHINGTON — At least some of the tar balls that washed onto Southern California beaches in the past month are linked to the crude released from a ruptured pipeline offshore, according to lab results reported Friday. The joint hearing of two legislative committees focused on the response to the May 19 spill and the initial hours after the pipe owned by Plains All American Pipeline burst. Until the pipeline is repaired, Exxon had hoped to use tanker trucks, each with a capacity of 6,720 gallons, to make up to 192 trips per day to transport the oil to from a company facility near the Pacific coast to several destinations, including an oil refinery in San Luis Obispo County, about 70 miles to the north.

When firefighters investigating the spill arrived at the scene on May 19, they quickly located a hose-like device spewing crude oil across the sand and into the water, according to records obtained by The Associated Press. However, Plains researchers now say lab results from tar balls collected at Manhattan Beach on May 27 showed that a mix of oil from the Line 901 spill and “natural seeps” contributed to tar balls along the beach. (TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. Instead, she said the company must go through normal channels, which include a long environmental study, to obtain a permit to move the oil by truck. (Related: Growing India Becomes Major LNG Player) Tom Kloza, the global director of energy at the Oil Price Information Service, said the rigs’ shutdown shouldn’t affect retail fuel prices in Southern California, but it will take a modest financial toll on Exxon.

On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee opened a probe into the spill and requested that the company provide detailed information about the maintenance of the line, including how it addressed deterioration. The panel also asked the company to explain what it was doing in the hours leading up to the leak near Santa Barbara, and how it reported the problem. According to documents released this week, Plains employees in Bakersfield who were responsible for alerting federal regulators to the spill were unable to contact employees on the ground near the ruptured pipeline. Records released by the company showed that once employees confirmed that oil was leaking into the ocean, two workers rode along the pipeline to look for the source of the spill. “It was not readily apparent from their vantage point near the beach that the oil originated” from the company pipeline, the records said. Environmental groups say the spill points to the dangers of a planned expansion of tar sands oil production in California, the Monitor reported in May. “It’s shocking that it took the company three hours to shut the pipeline down after it was reported by the public,” Anthony Swift, a Natural Resources Defense Council attorney, told the Monitor’s Daniel Wood.

Plains’ Hodgins defended the company’s response in front of the California Senate select committee holding a hearing on the spill Friday afternoon. A platform owned by Venoco Inc. shut down just a few days after the pipeline spill, and three platforms owned by Freeport-McMoRan also have suspended operations for the past several weeks. And, he said, a Plains employee and Santa Barbara Fire Department personnel attempted to build “a makeshift berm” to prevent additional oil from getting into a culvert. Panel leaders also sent a letter to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration questioning the agency’s delays in implementing a 2011 law meant to boost oversight and “help prevent such tragedies.” Of the law’s 42 congressional mandates, 17 are still incomplete, the lawmakers said.

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