(Trends Wide) — A stretch of the southern California coastline has been transformed by a pipeline leak that spilled more than 100,000 gallons (almost 380,000 liters) of oil into the Pacific Ocean.
Huntington Beach’s beaches, normally bustling and welcoming tourists with a sign reading “Surf City USA,” were empty Monday.
And a little further south, teams in white hazmat suits were working to protect the fragile ecosystem of the wetlands near the mouth of the Santa Ana River, a crucial habitat for migratory birds that is wrapped in shiny ribbons of oil.
According to Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, who has provided information updated on TwitterDead birds and fish have already washed ashore.
This Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency due to the spill. “The state is moving to cut red tape and mobilize all available resources to protect public health and the environment,” he said in a statement.
The breakout, widely publicized Saturday, occurred about five miles from Huntington Beach in Orange County, spilling up to 144,000 gallons of crude (546,000 liters), according to an updated estimate from the city of Huntington Beach.
Doubts about company information
And while the cause is being investigated, there are also doubts about the notification schedule.
California authorities were notified late Friday of the existence of an oil slick at the site of the spill, more than 12 hours before Amplify Energy Corp, the operator of the line, informed state and federal authorities, according to documents reviewed by Trends Wide.
But in an interview with Trends Wide on Monday, Amplify CEO Martyn Willsher said that company staff spotted the glow on Saturday morning, not Friday night. Willsher said that while there is equipment to detect the leak without showing the oil spills, there were no warnings of a possible leak on the line before Saturday.
Amplify is a small Houston-based company with 222 employees at the end of 2018, the last time it reported its staff size in a company presentation. Its most recent financial report shows sales of $ 153 million, with year-to-date losses of $ 54.4 million through the end of June.
The spill, which runs from Huntington Beach to Laguna Beach, is likely to move further south based on wind and currents, said Capt.Rebecca Ore, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard sector in Los Angeles-Long Beach.
Response efforts to the spill have doubled since Sunday afternoon, Ore said Monday.
“This has devastated our California coastline in Orange County, and is having a tremendous impact on our ecological reserves as well as our economy,” Foley told Trends Wide.
“We need answers and the public deserves answers.”
Endangered animals after the oil spill
It is unknown how many animals have died in the spill, Michael Ziccardi, director of the Petroleum Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), told a news conference Monday.
“I had serious concerns about this impact,” he said. However, the initial assessment shows fewer birds impacted than was feared.
So far, the OWCN has captured four birds, including a pelican that had to be euthanized, he said.
The spill is the latest incident of its kind to hit California’s coasts, including the 1969 incident of up to 4.2 million gallons of crude (nearly 16 million liters) near Santa Barbara. Locally, Huntington Beach was affected by a spill of about 417,000 gallons of crude in 1990 (1,578,000 liters), when a tanker passed over its anchor and pierced its hull.
The volume of the current spill pales in comparison to the most serious oil spills in history, such as the 1989 Exxon Valdez in Alaska (11 million gallons) and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico (134 million gallons). gallons).
For some, this latest incident is a sign of the need for change to protect the environment.
“As California continues to lead the nation in eliminating fossil fuels and fighting the climate crisis, this incident serves as a reminder of the enormous cost fossil fuels have on our communities,” Newsom said Monday. “Destructive offshore drilling practices sacrifice our public health, the economy and our environment.”
Investigate the causes
The cause of the leak is still unknown. Willsher said Monday that the company had isolated a specific point along the pipeline that could be responsible.
“We are still evaluating to find the origin and find out,” Eric Laughlin, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told a news conference Sunday. “It does not appear that there are any more fuel leaks, but we are still working to identify it.”
Authorities are examining whether a ship’s anchor could have caused the oil spill, Capt. Ore said.
“These ships are anchored and many are waiting to enter the San Pedro Bay port complex – the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – and in the course of transit it is possible that they will pass over a pipeline,” said Ore this Monday. .
The federal Office of Safety and Environmental Compliance was assisting in the Coast Guard-led response to the oil spill, the agency told Trends Wide. His role was to help “identify the location and source of any spill and provide technical assistance to the Unified Command to stop the spill,” he said in a statement Sunday.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending investigators to gather information and assess the source of the oil leak, he said on Twitter on Sunday.
Trends Wide’s Joe Sutton, Susannah Cullinane, Eric levenson, Amir Vera, Alta Spells, Stella Chan, Claudia Domínguez, Chris Isidore, Cheri Mossburg, and Sonnet Swire contributed to this report.