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60,000 Liters of Oil Spills From Pipeline Into Brazilian Bay

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60,000 Liters of Oil Spills From Pipeline Into Brazilian Bay

About 60,000 liters (15,850 gallons) of oil spilled from a pipeline into the Estrela River and spread to Rio de Janeiro's famed Guanabara Bay over the weekend, according to Reuters and local reports.

The pipeline is owned by Transpetro, the largest oil and gas transportation company in Brazil, and a subsidiary of Petroleo Brasileiro (commonly known as Petrobras). Transpetro claims the leak resulted from an attempted robbery.


"It was a leak of significant proportions, with an impact on the mangroves," said Maurício Muniz, an analyst at the Instituto Chico Mendes, which is associated with the Brazilian environment ministry, according to Reuters.

Aerial footage of the accident shows large slicks of oil contaminating the waters.

Guanabara Bay was also the site of a major spill in January 2000, when a pipeline released 1,300,000 liters (340,000 gallons) of oil into the waters. The leak stemmed from an oil refinery operated by Petrobras.

Muniz said Saturday's spill was the worst he has seen in the decade at his job, as quoted by the news website Project Colabora. He added that the bay has not fully recovered since the 2000 spill.

"The scene I witnessed was devastating: oil concentrated with garbage mainly at the mouth of the Rio Estrela," he explained (via Google translate). "The oil stain is almost reaching Paquetá [an island in Guanabara Bay].

Muniz said he is not sure if diesel or crude oil was released from the pipe.

Transpetro said that authorities have been alerted and its clean-up teams have already cleared 75 percent of the oil as of Monday morning, Reuters reported.

Latin America's largest nation is enduring the worst recession on record. In recent years, Transpetro and Petrobras have become frequent targets of theft in which gangs steal the fuel to resell on the black market, Reuters noted.

Derramamento de óleo na Baía de Guanabara www.youtube.com

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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