Giant, Catastrophic Oil Spill in California Ranks as One of The Worst in Decades

Officials said Monday that a massive oil spillage was threatening California's beaches and killing wildlife.
After spewing from an offshore rig's pipeline, birds and fish began to wash up on the shore.

The public was restricted to a 15-mile (24 km) stretch of coast. Fishing was stopped as crews attempted to clean up one the worst spillages in California history.

Huntingdon Beach Mayor Kim Carr said that beaches could be closed for weeks, or even months.

She stated that "our wetlands are being destroyed and parts of our coastline are completely coated in oil."

Long-billed curlew, oily water in Newport Beach, 3 Oct 2021. (David McNew/AFP)

The US Coast Guard is co-coordinating the response. They reported that less than 3 percent of the 5.8 mile long spillage plume had been recovered and that more than one mile of oil containment booms were in place.

The City of Huntington Beach stated Sunday that oil-covered fish and birds are beginning to appear along the coast.

Amplify Energy, which owns the pipeline, stated Monday that all production and pipeline operations at Beta Field were stopped by the company as a precautionary measure.

Martyn Willsher, CEO of the firm, stated that the firm would do "whatever is necessary" to clean up the spillage and added that the company has substantial insurance to cover the associated costs.

Willsher stated that a remotely operated vehicle had found the source of the leak and that divers would be going to the site on Monday afternoon.

Just devastating

Officials warn people not to try to save or touch any wildlife found, but instead to call the authorities to alert them of animals that have been affected by oil.

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley stated Sunday that "this is just devastating for marine life, habitat, and our economy, as well as our entire community."

"Our natural habitat, which we have spent many decades creating and building, is being destroyed in a matter of hours."

According to the Los Angeles Times, the spillage occurred near Elly platform. It was constructed in 1980.

Already, the disaster has sparked a debate over the existence of oil rigs or pipelines close to the coast of Southern California.

"The oil as tragic as it is preventable," stated Alan Lowenthal (a Democrat who represents the region in the US Congress).

"This environmental disaster highlights the simple truth that wherever you drill, you will spill.

"This will be devastating for our marine ecosystem and wildlife, as well as the livelihoods and communities along our coasts that are built around tourism, fishing, and recreation.

"So long as these platforms or pipelines are left, our coastal communities will continue to be at risk from potential disasters such as we are currently seeing."

California has been plagued by oil spillages for many decades. In 1969, images of dead, oil-covered dolphins along with tar-stained beaches off Santa Barbara sparked widespread disgust.

Since then, California has not issued any permits for drilling for oil.

However, the state's jurisdiction is only 3 miles off the coast. Federally-sanctioned oil and natural gas platforms are scattered throughout the region's coastline, some of which can be easily seen from the shore.

Environmentalists repeatedly brought attention to the deterioration and poor maintenance of certain facilities and the dangers they present.

Although the nature of the oil spillage is unknown, leaks were discovered in 1999 at the pipeline connecting two platforms in Beta field. The pipeline was jointly owned by Mobil and Shell back then, according to Los Angeles Times.

In an editorial, the Times stated that "This is why the US must end coastal oil drilling."

Agence France-Presse