Ruptured Pipeline Results in 21,000-Gallon Oil Spill Off Coast of Santa Barbara County


A 21,000-gallon oil spill on the Santa Barbara County coast is the latest reminder of the inherent risks of mixing industry and economy with nature, local politicians and environmental groups say.

The rupture occurred Tuesday afternoon on an 11-mile-long underground pipe owned by Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline and spilled the equivalent of 500 barrels of crude. The pipeline is part of a larger oil transport network centered in Kern County and was moving oil between facilities in Las Flores and Gaviota.

The U.S. Coast Guard launched a cleanup effort at sunrise, launching aircraft to assess the size of the spill and where it could go.

Tuesday night the spill had affected four miles of beach from just west of El Refugio State Beach toward El Capitan State Beach.

The National Weather Service said westerly winds could push the slick further down the coast.

“I am deeply saddened by the images coming from the scene at Refugio,” said Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara). “This incident is yet another stark reminder of the serious risks to our environment and economy that come from drilling for oil.”

Brigid McCormack, executive director of Audubon California, put it more simply: “Anytime you have oil spilled into the marine ecosystem it’s a major threat for birds and other wildlife.

“California’s beaches, including the wildlife and recreational opportunities they support, are a major part of our state’s identity. Time and time again we’re reminded that the benefits of putting oil so close to our natural treasures are never worth the risk,” she said.

California State Parks District Superintendent for the Channel Coast District Richard Rozzelle said officies were assessing the spill’s impact by helicopter.

“We are very disappointed to have oil on our beach,” Rozzelle said Wednesday, standing near oil-covered rocks. “It is a public resource we spend a lot of time protecting.”

El Refugio State Beach and El Capitan State Beach are closed to the public but campgrounds remain open at El Capitan, Rozzelle said. Those campgrounds may close after the morning reassessment, he said.

Santos Cabral, a Fish and Wildlife Department warden, said there were no reports of animals injured or killed by the spill. Coast Guard officials said that as of Wednesday morning, the spill remained largely in the Refugio State Beach area in Goleta and had not moved south to Isla Vista.

Dozens of workers in white jumpsuits were on the beach Wednesday morning scooping up oily sand and placing it into buckets.

The rupture was first reported about noon Tuesday after a woman at Refugio beach smelled the crude’s noxious fumes.

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SOURCE: LA Times, Matt Hamilton, Javier Panzar and Joseph Serna

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