(CNN) An anchor hooking an oil pipeline may have caused the Southern California spill that spewed more than 100,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said in a notice to operation owner Amplify Energy.
“The pipeline has essentially been pulled like a bow string. And so at its widest point is about 105 feet away from where it was. So it is kind of an almost a semicircle,” Amplify Energy CEO Martyn Willsher said at a press conference Tuesday.There is no confirmation of a vessel above the site of the spill, but a response team is working with other agencies to determine whether a ship was in the area, said Capt. Rebecca Ore, the commanding officer at US Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach.
Photo: Oil spill in Southern California Workers with Patriot Environmental Services clean up some of the oil that flowed into the Talbert Marsh in Huntington Beach, California.
Earlier Tuesday, authorities said a 4,000-foot section of the pipeline was displaced laterally about 105 feet and had a 13-inch split that was likely the source of the spill.The discovery explains the likely source of a spill, widely reported Saturday, of as much as 144,000 gallons of crude oil about five miles off the coast of Huntington Beach. The spill has shut down prized beaches, damaged the environment and presented possible health hazards for local residents.Authorities investigating the leak also sought Tuesday to clarify the timeline of when authorities and the pipeline company learned about the spill and what they did in response.
A strong gasoline odor. Plumes of oil. And now California’s coastal residents brace for damageThe Unified Command said the National Response Center first received a report of an unknown sheen of unknown source on Friday evening.”These types of reports are common and in many cases, the sheen reported can be natural seepage of oil or sheen that is never located,” the Unified Command said in a press release. “NOAA satellite imagery was reported to agencies early morning reporting a possible oil anomaly.”Crews from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response went to investigate before sunrise, but conditions were foggy and the crew returned to shore, authorities said.”The Coast Guard and Orange County Sheriff deployed at first light once fog lifted to investigate. A Coast Guard aircraft was diverted to support the investigation. On Saturday morning, the company confirmed a release of oil from a pipeline,” the Unified Command said.The timeline confirms that California authorities were notified late Friday of reports of an oil sheen at the site of the spill, more than 12 hours before Amplify Energy Corp., the operator of the line, reported it to state and federal officials, according to documents reviewed by CNN.
Oil is washed up on Huntington State Beach after a 126,000-gallon oil spill Friday.At a news conference Monday, Amplify’s Willsher said a sheen was detected by company personnel Saturday morning, not Friday night. Willsher said while there is equipment to detect the leak without visibly seeing oil spills, there were no notices of a potential leak in the line before Saturday.The timing is important because of how many people were potentially impacted by the spill on Saturday, said Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley.”There were hundreds of boaters out on the Huntington Beach coast because we had an air show,” Foley said. “There were hundreds of boaters coming back and forth from Catalina to Orange County.”In a federal “corrective action order,” Amplify Energy was directed to shut down the pipeline entirely, provide maintenance and inspection records, and complete a root cause failure analysis, among other requirements. Only then can it submit a plan to resume operations.The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration wrote that the cause of the spill remains unconfirmed.
Surfers says he was caught in the spill Saturday
Nathan Avila found himself caught in the spill Saturday night when he arrived at a jetty near Newport Beach, one of his favorite surf spots.He told CNN he saw a lifeguard speaking with other surfers, but didn’t think it had anything to do with him. Then he heard sirens and decided to get out of the water.
Elliot Lewis holds a glob of oil as he and Nathan Avila traveled into the Pacific to film the oil spill.”I look down at my hand and I see oil over it, so I knew right then … this is an oil spill, this is, this is no joke,” he said.Avila, who is from Long Beach, said he had dish soap with him to try washing the oil away, but it didn’t work.”I was lucky enough that I was wearing a full wetsuit, so my wetsuit’s pretty much trashed, it’s like soaked into my wetsuit,” he said. “The surfboard had oil all over it. There was specs on my face, it was all over my hands, my feet, but I was really lucky to be wearing a wetsuit.”
How oil spills harm birds, dolphins, sea lions and other wildlifeAvila wound up going to his house and using alcohol to wash the oil off.On Tuesday, Avila and his business partner, Elliot Lewis, ventured out into the waters of the Pacific Ocean to film the floating blobs of oil. They were eventually told to leave by the US Coast Guard.”The part that I was most surprised on is how thick the patties of oil were,” Avila said. “You could pick them up in your hand and it was about two inches thick and just globs. And we were seeing these globs everywhere.”Lewis told CNN the smell is what got to him.
Elliot Lewis reaches out to a blob of oil floating in the Pacific Ocean.”It just smelled like death oil basically, like you were walking through a refinery and then we saw all these different patties of oil had floated to the top, some as big as a Frisbee and some five, six times greater than that and we were just right in the middle of it. It was just disaster of the worst kind,” he said.Lewis added: “No way that an animal could survive in that water.”
Spill cleanup is underway
Huntington Beach once had a a sign reading “Surf City USA.” A new sign Monday read “Beach open, Ocean and Shore closed.”On one beach section, workers in hazmat suits and rakes cleaned up tar balls from the spill, while beach-goers and their dogs ran between them.
America’s offshore oil infrastructure is aging. ‘We don’t know there’s a problem until there’s a problem.’And a little farther south, teams in white hazmat suits worked to protect the fragile wetland ecosystem near the mouth of the Santa Ana River — a crucial habitat for migratory birds that is now wrapped in shimmering oil ribbons.On Monday, Gov. 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 spill, which stretches from Huntington Beach to Laguna Beach, is likely to move farther south based on wind and currents, the Coast Guard’s Ore said.The spill is just the latest such incident to hit California’s shores, including the 1969 spill of as much as 4.2 million gallons of crude oil near Santa Barbara. Locally, Huntington Beach bore the brunt of a 1990 spill of about 417,000 gallons of crude oil when an oil tanker ran over its anchor and punctured its hull.
Patriot Environmental employees work to clear oil from the surface of the water inside Talbert Marsh in California on Monday, October 4.The current spill’s volume pales in comparison to the most serious oil spills in history, including the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska (11 million gallons) and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico (134 million gallons).As of Tuesday morning, about 4,800 gallons of oil has been recovered from the water and about 11,400 feet of boom — a term for floating barriers designed to contain an oil spill — has been deployed.Dead birds and fish have already washed ashore, according to Foley, who has been providing updates on Twitter.“This has devastated our California coastline in Orange County, and it’s having a tremendous impact on our ecological preserves as well as our economics,” Foley told CNN. “We need answers and the public deserves answers.”
Why ending our dependence on fossil fuels is so challengingEight birds have been recovered from the oil spill, according to OWCN, including a brown pelican that was euthanized because of a wing injury.For some, this latest incident is a sign of a need for change to protect the environment.“As California continues to lead the nation in phasing out fossil fuels and combating 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.”
Investigation into the cause
The recently cleaned beach in the affected area of the oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach on Monday.Willsher, the Amplify executive, apologized Tuesday for the spill and vowed to clean the area up.”This is a terrible tragedy and we’re extremely sorry this happened, obviously the cause of this still needs to be investigated. But regardless of the cause, we’re going to do everything we can to make things right for all those impacted areas and individuals, as quickly as we can,” Willsher said.
Amplify is a small, Houston-based company with 222 employees as of the end of 2018, the last time it reported its staff size in a company filing. 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 federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement was assisting in Coast Guard-led response to the oil spill, the agency told CNN. Its role was to assist “in identifying the location and source of any spills and provide technical assistance to the Unified Command in stopping the spillage,” it said Sunday in a statement.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified where Amplify’s CEO made his remarks on when the oil sheen was detected. It was during a news conference.
CNN’s Stella Chan, Susannah Cullinane, Claudia Dominguez, Chris Isidore, Julia Jones, Eric Levenson, Sara Sidner, Alta Spells, Joe Sutton, Sonnet Swire, Camila Bernal and Anna-Maja Rappard contributed to this report.
Letter from SIMA President regarding recent Orange County Oil Spill.
By now you’re all aware of the disastrous oil spill off Huntington Beach this past weekend. Over 140,000 gallons of oil leaked into the ocean from a broken pipeline about 4 miles off the coast near a drilling platform. The results of this spill are devastating both environmentally and recreationally. The California Governor has declared a state of emergency for Orange County in an effort to speed up the authorized clean-up efforts.
As I’ve pointed out many times over the years, beach closures directly impact our industry in terms of loss of sales and loss of surf access. The disaster will impact business in the area, and we need to be supportive of our account base and hope that this “mess” will be cleaned up in “weeks” rather than “months” as is being reported in certain media outlets.
Most of the California and National organizations that we support with grants from funds raised from the “Clean Oceans for Surf” initiative and the “Waterman’s” event are actively involved in this catastrophe.
The Surfrider Foundation, who for years have been fighting to put an end to offshore drilling (you may remember their 2017 “Drilling is Killing” protests and campaign), are very active in this crisis as are numerous wildlife rescue experts.
I would encourage you to visit surfrider.org for more information, updates and how to help opportunities. Also, see the attached which has links to additional information on this.
It’s at times like these that, as an industry, our efforts and contributions to SIMA Environmental Fund initiatives like Clean Oceans for Surf and Waterman’s are recognized, as funds raised for our beneficiaries are vital for the ongoing fight to protect our oceans.
On that note, I thank all of those who participated in this year’s events and I’m pleased to announce that we more than doubled the net funds raised for the oceans over 2019. Timely indeed!
Please take the time to follow this current environmental catastrophe and get involved where you can. Some of the real impact will really be felt when a lot of unridden waves go by during next week’s swell!
Sincerely in Surfing,
President SIMA / SIMA Environmental Fund
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News article today on CNN.com authored by Pete Stauffer, Surfrider’s Enviironmenal Director. Read here. Sharing a few updates on the oil spill disaster off Orange County. You can continue to be updated on Surfrider’s blog post as new info becomes available. Attached is the latest update from Unified Command on the cleanup effort. You can sign up to receive updates here A website for the response has been established at www.SoCalSpillResponse.com. CDFW is reiterating that volunteers are not needed at this time. However a volunteer webpage and form has been created (participation will require OSHA training – i.e., Hazmat and HAZWOPER) Surfrider’s Environmental Director Pete Stauffer is drafting a letter to CA Office of Spill Prevention & Response on Surfrider’s priorities for spill cleanup & mitigation. Surfrider will amplify via media, etc. Pete participated in an interview with KCBS LA last night (interview link here – starts halfway through segment). Surfrider’s PR manager and media agency, BrandAmp, are coordinating additional media opps with Chad and Pete as available spokespeople.
If you are not yet a BRA Retail Member, you can easily opt in to either Regular (no cost) or Distinguished ($100/yr.) Membership via this super simple join form