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California Pipeline Bursts, Spills 105,000 Gallons of Oil

The spill has created two slicks that span 9 miles of coastline near Santa Barbara, potentially harming water quality and endangering marine life.

by VICE News
May 20 2015, 9:30pm

Photo par Michael A. Mariant/AP

One hundred and five thousand gallons of oil leaked onto Refugio State Beach and into the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara, California on Tuesday from a 28-year-old pipeline owned by the Houston-based company Plains All America Pipeline (PAAP). 

Citing US Coast Guard sources, the Associated Press reported that the 24-inch onshore pipe broke, dumping oil into a storm drain and coastal waters, creating two oil slicks that currently span 9 miles. Refugio State Beach and El Capitan State Beach were closed to allow authorities to begin a cleanup operation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

California governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Santa Barbara County. 

"This emergency proclamation cuts red tape and helps the state quickly mobilize all available resources," Brown said in a statement. "We will do everything necessary to protect California's coastline."

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Photos from local news site Noozhawk showed oil-coated animals.

"5,000 gallons of oil were removed from the ocean and beach by Wednesday morning," the site reported on Wednesday. 

Video via Tristan Twisselman/YouTube

Kira Redmond, executive director of Channelkeeper, a local environmental watchdog group, expressed concern about the impact on water quality and marine life.

"We will be out on the water to investigate the extent and impacts of the spill, monitor the containment efforts, keep the public updated, provide any assistance we can with the clean-up, and ultimately ensure that the responsible party cleans up the oil that has marred our precious beaches, ocean, and marine life," Redmond said in a statement.

PAAP did not respond to VICE News' request for comment.  

The Western States Petroleum Association, an industry group, said in a statement that it is "always concerned when accidents like this happen."

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"Once the incident is contained and thoroughly cleaned up," the group said, "[state and federal agencies] will review the facts surrounding this incident and apply what they learn to prevent future accidents."

According to data compiled by the Center for Biological Diversity, federal enforcement actions were initiated against PAAP 20 times since 2006, mostly involving corrosion control and maintenance problems. Twice in 2009 the company was fined $115,600.

"This company's disturbing record highlights oil production's toxic threat to California's coast," said Miyoko Sakashita, the Center's oceans program director. "Oil pipelines and offshore fracking and drilling endanger our fragile marine ecosystems. Every new oil project increases the risk of fouled beaches and oil-soaked sea life."

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