Federal investigators believe a ship’s anchor could have hooked on, dragged, and tore an underwater pipeline that exploded into the ocean off Southern California. Tens of thousands of gallons worth of crude oil were spilled.
There were still questions about the timing of the spillage, which contaminated beaches and a marshland and could have led to closures for several weeks. This would also impact commercial and recreational fishing, and the local economy.
Some reports that there was a possible spillage, a petroleum smell, and an oily sheen in the waters around Huntington Beach were received Friday night, but they weren’t confirmed by authorities. Amplify Energy Corp. didn’t report the spillage until the following morning, authorities stated.
According to preliminary findings from an investigation, Amplify was able to shut down the pipeline after a warning alarm rang in a company control center at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday. The alarm indicated that the pressure in the pipeline had dropped.
Investigators found that the Houston-based company took three more hours to notify the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center for oil leaks. This further slowed down the response to an incident for which Amplify workers had spent years planning.
Martyn Willsher, CEO of Amplify, claimed that the company was unaware of the spillage until it noticed a sheen in the water at 8:09 AM.
According to the company’s spill response plan, a spill should be reported immediately. In the past, criminal charges were brought against companies that failed to immediately notify federal or state officials about a spillage.
Federal transportation investigators stated that the pipe had been cut at a depth approximately 98 feet (30 metres) and that a section of nearly a mile was pulled along the seafloor by a hook or anchor, which could have caused a partial tear.
Willsher stated that the pipeline had been pulled almost like a bowstring. It is now 105 feet (32 m) from its original location at its widest point.
As they travel into the massive Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, huge cargo ships often cross the pipeline. The coordinates of where they can anchor are provided to them until unloading.
Anchored cargo ships move constantly due to shifting winds and tides. An anchor weighing more than 10 tons (9 metric tons), can drag on “whatever the anchor gets fouled upon,” Steven Browne, a professor in marine transportation at California State University Maritime Academy.
Investigators did not know if a specific ship was involved.
“We will make sure we have answers as how this happened and hold the responsible party accountable,” stated Katie Porter, a Democrat, who chairs the oversight subcommittee on the House Natural Resources Committee’s oversight and investigations subcommittee. She represents a district located a few miles from the spillage area.
The ocean was flooded with heavy crude oil, which emitted 126,000 gallons (572.807 liters) into the sea. However, animal rescuers were pleasantly surprised to see that there were few oil-stained birds.
An AP videojournalist saw no oil during a two-hour boat trip off Huntington Beach’s coast. Pelicans, other seabirds and four dolphins floated by the boat in calm waters.
Coast Guard officials also defended their decision not to investigate the possible spillage until Saturday morning, despite it being reported on Friday night. It was near a group of boats anchored off Huntington Beach.
At 2:06 am Saturday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that satellite images indicated the high likelihood of an oil spillage. The Coast Guard staff manned the National Response Center.
Residents of Newport Beach also complained about Friday night’s strong petroleum stench, and police issued a public notice.
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Brian Penoyer said that although he was alerted by a “good Samaritan”, the Coast Guard did not have sufficient evidence to confirm the sheen. He also stated that the Coast Guard was hindered in his efforts to find the spilled oil by darkness and a lack technology.
Penoyer stated that oil sheens were quite common in major seaports.
Penoyer stated, “In hindsight it seems obvious, however, they didn’t know at the time.”
Governor. Gavin Newsom reiterated his call for the United States to get beyond oil. Last year, Newsom signed an executive order prohibiting the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles until 2035.
“It’s high time to stop allowing this to become part of our future. He said that this was part of our history from Bolsa Chica State beach, where he was joined to discuss the spillage by federal, state, and local officials.