By MarEx 2015-08-06 20:10:13
Californian authorities have started legal action seeking fines for the May pipeline spill that released an estimated 101,000 gallons of crude oil on to beaches in Santa Barbara.
The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has referred the Plains Pipeline’s May 19 Refugio Beach, Santa Barbara, oil spill to the California Attorney General for judicial enforcement.
The spill caused damage to marine wildlife and the environment and triggered ongoing cleanup and restoration efforts. Nearly 100 miles of beach was polluted.
“The Water Board will work closely with the Attorney General’s office to make sure all those responsible for the Refugio spill face the strongest enforcement measures allowed by law,” said Regional Board Chair Dr Jean-Pierre Wolff.
While the Regional Water Board has the authority to take administrative enforcement action on its own, this action allows the Attorney General to seek higher penalties when appropriate, and allows for more efficient coordination with other state and federal enforcement agencies.
State law allows the Attorney General to seek penalties of up to $25,000 per day of violation and $25 per gallon of oil spilled.
Cause for Concern
Earlier this week, the Center for Biological Diversity formally petitioned the U.S. federal government to inspect all pipelines off the coast of California for corrosion and other damage.
Millions of gallons of crude are pumped through these pipelines every day. “Rusty pipelines put California’s coast at risk of another destructive oil spill,” said Kristen Monsell, a Center attorney. “Dangerous oil drilling doesn’t belong in oceans, and aging pipelines and oil rigs increase the risk. Federal inspectors should examine every inch of these offshore pipelines to see if they’re as corroded and dangerous as the section that failed near Santa Barbara.”
The legal petition covers the 213 miles of pipelines in federal waters and additional pipeline in state waters closer to shore. These offshore pipelines are typically far older than the onshore Plains All American pipeline.
Preliminary findings indicate that the spill was caused by extensive corrosion of the pipeline that carries crude drilled and transported from offshore platforms and pipelines. The findings also suggest that the pipeline had corroded to a much greater extent than federally required reports from Plains had indicated, says the Center.
The Plains pipeline was 28 years old; many sections of the pipelines off California’s coast are more than 40 years old. Federal data show a significantly increased risk of failure as pipelines approach 30 years old and indicate that offshore pipelines are more vulnerable to damage than those onshore. Offshore fracking, which has been used at wells in the Pacific more than 200 times, only increases that vulnerability, says the Center.