Massive Oil Slick Revives Memories of 1969 Santa Barbara Spill

Tuesday's pipeline spill resulted in an oil slick off the Santa Barbara coast. While incomparable in size to the 1969 spill resulting from an oil platform blowout, it is yet another reminder of environmental consequences of oil dependency.
May 21, 2015, 6am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"The rupture occurred Tuesday [May 19] afternoon on an 11-mile-long underground pipe owned by Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline and spilled the equivalent of 500 barrels [21,000 gallons] of crude," write Matt Hamilton, Javier Panzar and Joseph Serna of the Los Angeles Times. "The pipeline is part of a larger oil transport network centered in Kern County [home to California's most productive oil fields] and was moving oil between facilities in Las Flores and Gaviota."

Local TV broadcasts showed photos of blackened waterfowl, though no deaths were recorded, and oil soaked beaches, including Refugio State Beach in Goleta, 20 miles west of Santa Barbara, which closed.

The rupture was detected at noon by Santa Barbara County firefighters, then a half mile long, and stopped three hours later by the U.S. Coast Guard, "corralling the slicks with booms," on Wednesday morning.

"I am deeply saddened by the images coming from the scene at Refugio,” said Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara). “This incident is yet another stark reminder of the serious risks to our environment and economy that come from drilling for oil.”

However, the spill did not come from drilling for oil, as was the case in 1969 when up to 100,000 barrels spilled in the Santa Barbara Channel that "resulted in numerous pieces of environmental legislation within the next several years, legislation that forms the legal and regulatory framework for the modern environmental movement in the U.S.," according to Wikipedia.

Rather, the pipeline spill serves as a stark reminder of the environmental dangers posed by the transportation of crude oil, be it by rail, ship or barge, or tanker trucks on highways, necessary to fuel America's cars and trucks.

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Published on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 in Los Angeles Times
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