The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
State of Emergency Declared: California Oil Spill Now Estimated at 105,000 Gallons
Tuesday afternoon, news spread of the latest oil-related tragedy to occur in the U.S.—an oil pipeline ruptured in Santa Barbara County in Central California, along the Refugio State Beach coastline. Though the pipeline was on land, it was found to be leaking into a culvert that eventually emptied into the ocean. By the time the pipeline was shut off, oil had been spilling into the sea for at least three hours.
As of Tuesday evening, officials claimed that an estimated 21,000 gallons had spilled into the ocean in an oil slick that was four miles wide. Unfortunately, as of yesterday morning, the slick had spread to at least nine miles wide, as the winds and tides did what they do. And now, a new estimate says that up to 105,000 gallons of oil might have been spilled. Yesterday, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency due to the effects of the oil spill on Santa Barbara County.
Refugio State Beach has been closed indefinitely. The area is a sensitive and important place for all kinds of species, including migratory whales and rare seabirds—and wildlife has already been affected. Though there is no estimate of how much wildlife has been impacted so far, things don’t look good.
The cleanup is painstaking work. There are several dozen workers outfitted in protective suits and helmets on the beach, shoveling up contaminated mud and rocks into plastic bags. It is made more arduous by having to take place both on shore and on the water, since the oil originated on land.
Greenpeace visited the site to survey the true damage, to share with the world the devastation to the Santa Barbara County coastline, and to communicate the dangers of fossil fuels so that we can transition to clean energy and prevent this from happening again.
Plains All American Pipeline, the company that owns the ruptured pipeline, has a history of spills. The company has apologized, with the district manager saying, “We’re sorry this accident has happened, and we’re sorry for the inconvenience to the community.”
This spill has not occurred in a vacuum. We can now add it to the sad history of oil-related spills and accidents that have happened the world over in the past years—including one that happened very near to this area in 1969, which spilled 3 million gallons of oil into the ocean.
As Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace, has said, “Oil spills are never accidents. They are the direct result of substandard oversight of fossil fuel companies who put their profits above human and environmental impacts.” Each time a spill, oil train explosion or some other disaster occurs, we look to our leaders to take responsibility to make change. So far they’ve demonstrated that they don’t have the courage to stand up to Big Oil.
We all hope that this oil spill will quickly be contained and cleaned up. But are we willing to keep taking chances for future accidents to occur? I can’t help but think of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s research that shows that there’s a 75 percent chance of an oil spill occurring in the Arctic if drilling takes place there. Even with that scary fact, the Obama administration has decided to give Shell the conditional go-ahead to drill. Let’s demand better from our President and other leaders before it’s too late.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The world awakened to the hole in the ozone layer in 1985, which scientists attributed it to ozone depleting substances. Two years later, in Montreal, the world agreed to ban the halogen compounds causing the massive hole over Antarctica. Research now shows that those chemicals didn't just cut a hole in the ozone layer, they also warmed up the Arctic.
Formosa Plant May Still Be Releasing Plastic Pollution in Texas After $50M Settlement, Activists Find
On the afternoon of Jan. 15, activist Diane Wilson kicked off a San Antonio Estuary Waterkeeper meeting on the side of the road across from a Formosa plastics manufacturing plant in Point Comfort, Texas.
After Wilson and the waterkeeper successfully sued Formosa, the company agreed to no longer release even one of the tiny plastic pellets known as nurdles into the region's waterways. The group of volunteers had assembled that day to check whether the plant was still discharging these raw materials of plastics manufacturing.
Malaysia Sends Plastic Waste Back to 13 Wealthy Countries, Says It Won’t Be 'the Rubbish Dump of the World'
The Southeast Asian country Malaysia has sent 150 shipping containers packed with plastic waste back to 13 wealthy countries, putting the world on notice that it will not be the world's garbage dump, as CNN reported. The countries receiving their trash back include the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada.