Oil from Santa Barbara spill reached California beaches 100 miles away

27 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

California oil spill gushed like hose ‘without a nozzle’.

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Firefighters investigating a reported petroleum stench at a California beach last month didn’t take long to find a spill – oil was spreading across the sand and into the surf.

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.

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. Plains employees did not report the spill to state officials until 2:54 p.m. on May 19, about an hour and a half after company officials said they confirmed a Plains pipeline was responsible for spilling thousands of gallons of oil along the coast. 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.

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. House Energy and Commerce Committee opened an investigation Thursday and asked the company for detailed information on maintenance of the line, including how it addressed corrosion.

He said he would comment on the pipeline only after a final investigation by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration determined the exact cause of the spill. 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.

Federal regulations require the company to notify the National Response Center, a clearinghouse for reports of hazardous-material releases, “at the earliest practicable moment.” State law requires immediate notification of a release or a threatened release. Company employees at the scene did not confirm a leak until about 1:30 p.m., and it would be nearly 3 p.m. before the company would contact the response center.

The federal agency released preliminary findings earlier this month that the break occurred along a badly corroded section that had worn away to a fraction of an inch in thickness. In a separate letter Thursday, the House committee asked the pipeline administration for an update of what it called long overdue pipeline safety rules. 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. The panel said the California spill raised questions about the agency’s oversight of pipeline safety and added that the agency had failed to complete 17 of 42 requirements Congress outlined in 2011 to help prevent spills.

Those records said that once company workers confirmed oil was in the ocean, two employees rode along the pipeline to look for a source. “It was not readily apparent from their vantage point near the beach that the oil originated” from the company pipeline, they said. Popular campgrounds have been closed, nearby commercial fishing has been prohibited and nearly 300 marine mammals and birds have been found dead after the spill. At the legislative hearing, Janet Wolf, chair of the county board of supervisors, said county officials were concerned the pipeline company was exerting too much influence on operations following the spill, while local officials were being excluded.

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