Oil Spill Threatens Southern California Coast

Arnold & Itkin

A pipeline break has sent oil spilling into the Pacific Ocean off the Southern California coast, posing a threat to wildlife and residents. Cleanup and response efforts are underway to try to minimize the damage.

On Saturday, October 2, 2021, an oil pipeline that runs from the offshore platform Elly to the Port of Long Beach started to leak. The breach occurred about 5 miles from the Huntington Beach coast in Orange County, California. The cause of the oil spill is still under investigation.

About the Huntington Beach Oil Leak

An estimated 3,000 barrels (126,000 gallons) of post-production crude oil spilled into the water, spreading about 13 square miles between Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Orange County Sheriff’s Office have been working together to respond to the spill, addressing it from the shore and at sea. As of Sunday, about 3,150 gallons of oil were removed from the water.

At the time of this writing, the pipeline has been suctioned off at both ends to prevent any more oil from spilling into the Pacific.

Pipeline Owned by Subsidiary of Amplify Energy

Elly is operated by Beta Operating Company, a subsidiary of Amplify Energy Corporation, a Houston-based company that has a history of noncompliance with federal drilling regulations. Beta Operating was fined $85,000 between 2013 and 2014 for violations involving a worker who received an electric shock due to a lack of safety equipment and a crude oil release. The Federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which is tasked with inspecting offshore oil platforms, lists 125 incidents of noncompliance involving Beta Operations in its online database.

Divers from Amplify Energy searched for the location of the leak on Sunday, but details of their findings (if any) have not been released. According to company records, Amplify had been working on upgrading old infrastructure and had plans to drill near the site of the leak at the end of the year, but it is unclear whether these plans are linked to this spill and even whether the new drilling had begun.

Aging Pipelines & Platforms Put Everyone at Risk

California banned new offshore drilling operations back in 1982, but platforms like Elly continue to operate more than 3 miles off the coast in federal waters. 21 are currently in operation and 2 are being decommissioned. Elly, which was built in 1980, is responsible for processing and routing crude oil from production platforms to a Long Beach pumping station via the San Pedro Bay Pipeline, which is 41 years old.

Decades-old infrastructure like this brings about questions of safety, not only to the environment but to residents in the area and the crews on the platforms as well. Miyoko Sakashita, the director of the Oceans Program for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement regarding the California spill, “I’ve seen the aging oil platforms off Huntington Beach up close, and I know it’s past time to decommission these time bombs.”

As offshore injury attorneys, we too have seen the devastating consequences of aging platforms, overlooked safety standards, and any acts by oil and gas companies that put more importance on profits than the environment and their workers. We represented one-third of the Deepwater Horizon crew, which exploded off the Gulf Coast and caused the largest marine oil spill in history, as well as the tragic loss of 11 crew members. We fight to help injured oil and gas workers and others who have been adversely affected by oil spills, rig explosions, and other catastrophes.

We will continue to follow the Huntington Beach oil spill as new details emerge about its cause, cleanup efforts, and more.

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