21,000 gallons of oil spill in Santa Barbara County

Oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara County
CC BY 3.0 Zack Warburg. Spilled oil covers sand and rocks at the El Refugio State Beach.

Yesterday, a ruptured underground oil pipe was discovered in Santa Barbara County, California. The break spilled thousands of gallons of crude oil, contaminated at least four miles of beach and spread into the ocean. The 11-mile pipeline is owned by Plains All American Pipeline, and transports oil from a network centered in Kern County. El Refugio State Beach and El Capitan State Beach have both been affected.

The spill was shut off after spilling an estimated 21,000 gallons of crude oil. Clean up crews from the U.S. Coast Guard and environmental organizations are working to limit the damage. The oil spilled from the pipe into a culvert, which ran through a storm drain and emptied into the ocean. Preliminary estimates say the oil reached out about 50 yards into open water.

Photos from the spill are devastating:

Environmental groups and some local officials say the spill is an inevitable outcome of coastal oil drilling and infrastructure. This incident occurs along the same stretch of shore as a 1969 spill at the site of an off-shore oil rig.

“This incident is yet another stark reminder of the serious risks to our environment and economy that come from drilling for oil,” U.S. Representative Lois Capps told The L.A. Times.

CBS Los Angeles reports that the Santa Barbara County District Attorney will be investigating for any civil or criminal violations associated with the pipeline.

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