State of Emergency declared as oil-soaked pelicans die on shore
By Nadia Prupis / Common Dreams
As an investigation into an oil spill along the California coast continued on Thursday, environmentalists described a “nightmare” scenario in the area and new details emerged about the pipeline operator’s long history of generating similar disasters.
California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency late Wednesday over the oil spill near Santa Barbara that may have dumped more than 105,000 gallons of crude along the coast on Tuesday morning.
By Thursday afternoon, wildlife in the area, including pelicans, had been found coated in oil, according to ABC News. One bird was found dead on the beach and five have reportedly been sent to rehabilitation centers.
Clean-up crews shoveled pools of black sludge along the shore and towed booms into the water to fence in the two large patches that had spread across nine miles in the Pacific Ocean. Exactly how much oil has spilled from the pipeline that burst near Refugio State Beach is still unclear.
So is the cause. Darren Palmer, the chairman and CEO of Plains All American, which operates the pipeline, told reporters Wednesday evening that the company had experienced “mechanical issues” before the leak, but did not elaborate.
What is known, however, is that Plains All American has a history of wreaking environmental damage.
Not including Tuesday’s disaster, the company has been responsible for 175 spill incidentsnationwide since 2006, including 11 in California—the most recent one in 2014, when 10,000 gallons of oil spilled in the Atwater Village community in Los Angeles.
The company’s Canadian branch, Plains Midstream Canada, has also had a slew of ruptures in Alberta.
“This company’s disturbing record highlights oil production’s toxic threat to California’s coast,” said Miyoko Sakashita, the oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement on Thursday. “Every new oil project increases the risk of fouled beaches and oil-soaked sea life.”
As the Gaviota Coast Conservancy pointed out on Wednesday, the pipeline was the only one in the county to be operating without local oversight.
“The Gaviota coast is a global resource that needs to be attended to with greater respect and restraint,” Gaviota Coast Conservancy president Phil McKenna said. “When I saw that first image of oil oozing out of the bluffs, it was a nightmare.”
And the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center posited other unanswered questions, including “why there was no automatic shut-off on this relatively new pipeline, and why the early response was not more successful in halting the flow of crude oil into the fragile waters of the Santa Barbara Channel and across our precious coastline.”
Many environmental organizations connected the spill to the environmental dangers posed by offshore drilling in the Arctic, which recently got federal approval.
“Oil pipelines and offshore fracking and drilling endanger our fragile marine ecosystems,” Sakashita said on Thursday. “If [we’ve] learned anything over the past 50 years, it’s that coastal oil production remains inherently dangerous to wildlife, local communities and health of the planet. To protect our coast, we need to stop offshore drilling and fracking and quickly transition to cleaner energy sources.”
Dr. Chad Nelsen, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation, added, “Sadly, once the oil is spilled it is too late. As we are again learning in Santa Barbara, once the disaster has occurred we can only try to minimize the damage…. We need a strong public response to combat special interests who are constantly pressing for more drilling along our precious coastlines.”
bob dorn says
“Why there was no automatic shut-off” is one burning question the investigation will have to ask. Another is, why all the oil giants can’t put together an onshore and offshore clean up operation. They make enough money to buy the whole state.
“Clean up crews” were largely locals, as there was no officials on site for almost 24 hrs. What kind of “emergency” response is that?
Thank you locals, for doing what Plains should be doing. Now make them pay, big time.
Elizabeth Thompson says
Dr. Chad Nelsen, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation, added, “Sadly, once the oil is spilled it is too late. As we are again learning in Santa Barbara, once the disaster has occurred we can only try to minimize the damage…. We need a strong public response to combat special interests who are constantly pressing for more drilling along our precious coastlines.” Like the whole ‘Tea Party’, underwritten by the Koch brothers, for one.
Dawn Hill says
What everyone needs to understand is that big oil never gave a small darn about our health or the beauty of the beaches or the destruction of the animals and water. We liberals are going to have to do something drastic if we really want them to quit this. Look at freaking Shell, still trying to drill “safely” in the ARCTIC OCEAN when they can’t even get the damned stuff across town without pipes rupturing, railroad cars derailing, tankers running into little obstacles like the Golden Gate Bridge. As long as we let them drill offshore and move it around our once-beautiful state, they’re going to keep messing it up like this.
Jan Michael Sauer says
I agree one hundred percent with Bob,Tracy, Elizabeth, and Dawn. I am here in San Antonio,Texas and before my tears had even dried after looking at the Santa Barbara spill photos I hear on the news of a well blowout south of town in the Eagle Ford Shale. Homes, roads, and livestock are covered in oil and there is an evacuation because of natural gas leaking . Now it is early Sunday morning and we are getting heavy rains which will send oil into the San Antonio River, then into the Gulf of Mexico. Of course, in conservative, big oil Texas we are used to oil/tar balls washing up on our beaches. It is a necessary cost of doing business. Our wise elected Republicans have more important things to worry about than the environment, like the secession movement and the possible American invasion of Texas. At least you have good progressives that know how to get pissed off and institute change. I know that it’s not a liberal paradise from Orange County on south, but at least your conservatives are not as stupid and evil as ours are (?) It seems like these big oil companies always just pay a fine then it’s the same shit all over again and again. Let’s free our pot prisoners and replace them with those big oil bastards.
bob dorn says
It’s really, really good to see some appreciation of California coming from east of the Colorado River. California still is dismissed as a collection of hipster liberals and union tools by the rest of the country. But I don’t give the California GOP much credit for being more enlightened than the professional thugs among the Republicans elsewhere. Given a near-majority, as they enjoy in the South and Midwest, I’m sure our Republicans would turn into snarling Gomers just like your Gohmert.
Roger Batchelder says
The “drastic” thing to do is to switch to the Green Party- a non corporate party is needed to save lives,democracy, and the planet.