California declared a state of emergency late Wednesday for Santa Barbara County after more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil spewed along the Pacific Coast. Gov. Jerry Brown made the declaration after an onshore pipeline burst had endangered coastal wildlife.
The decision to declare a state of emergency will help gather federal and state funding for the cleanup process. The coastline previously experienced one of the biggest spills in U.S. history in 1969. The spill was responsible for the rise of a significant environmental movement in the country at that time.
The area is indefinitely closed to the public since the spill. The site is around 20 miles from Santa Barbara, which is renowned for its pristine surf and palm tree-lined seashore. The pipeline leaked into a storm drain for hours. The drain took the crude oil to the ocean close to Refugio State Beach.
Meanwhile, the spill has become a tourist attraction. Motorists are pulling off the Pacific Coast Highway and observing the spill from bluffs.
The Los Angeles Times reported that company workers had closed down the system after noticing “pressure abnormalities” in the line. But the rupture wasn't confirmed until two hours later, when an employee went to inspect a reported odor.
The 24-inch pipe, which burst and spilled oil, was built in 1991 and had no history of problems. The pipe was meticulously inspected in 2012. Similar tests were performed a couple weeks back. However, the test results have not been studied yet.
According to Plains All American Pipeline, around 105,000 gallons of crude oil is likely to have leaked. The Texas company said that around 21,000 gallons might have spilled in to the ocean.
The company apologized for the spill. “We deeply, deeply regret that this incident has occurred at all,” Plains Chairman and CEO Greg Armstrong said, as the New York Times reported. “We apologize for the damage that it’s done to the wildlife and to the environment.” He said the company had been permitted to perform a round-the-clock cleanup and that company workers would remain there until normalcy was restored.
No estimate has been given for the cost of the cleanup, or for how long it will take.