ORANGE COUNTY OIL SPILL

Photo by Suzanne Welsh

* Last updated on 10/15/2021 at 2:29 p.m.

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Our staff is updating this page with new information as we receive it. Please consider supporting us as our entire staff has shifted focus toward this devastating event.

What is the latest news regarding the spill?

Friday, October 1

6:13 PM: Colonial Compliance Systems, Inc., a consulting company specializing in maritime safety, security, and environmental compliance, filed a Hazardous Materials Spill Report to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services citing an unknown sheen in the water covering an area of 2 nautical miles x 100 meters.

Saturday, October 2

1:15 AM: An additional report was called in by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Satellite Analysis Branch after detecting anomalies at the water’s surface. 

2:30 AM: 

  • Beta Offshore’s control room personnel received a low-pressure alarm on the San Pedro Bay Pipeline, indicating a possible failure.
  • Witt O’Briens, a crisis and emergency management firm believed to be contracted by Amplify Energy, filed a Hazardous Materials Spill Report to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services citing a leak of unknown causes releasing crude oil.

6:01 AM: Beta Offshore reported that the San Pedro Bay Pipeline was shut down, over three hours after they received the initial alarm.

9:00 AM: Private citizen called in a third report to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services citing an unknown sheen in the water. 

9:07 AM: Beta Offshore reported the accident to the National Response Center indicating a loss of crude oil near Platform Elly.

Flow of oil was stopped late Saturday. The public was notified by the City of Huntington Beach of beach closures due to the oil slick from the Santa Ana River jetty to the Huntington Beach pier.

Sunday, October 3

4:41 PM: U.S. Coast Guard submitted a report to the National Response Center citing oiled marine life and dead fish.

5:20 PM: U.S. Coast Guard submitted another report, reporting that the failure may have been caused by a crack in the pipeline.

Monday, October 4

Investigation of the location and status of the leak using remote operated vehicles (ROV) and divers underway by Amplify Energy and state and federal officials. 

Tuesday, October 5

The surveys identified 4000 feet of pipeline had been moved laterally 105 feet off of its central line. The cause of the spill remains unconfirmed, but preliminary reports say it was likely caused by a ship’s anchor that hooked and dragged the pipeline.   

Thursday, October 7

Oil has landed on beaches in San Diego County.

Sunday, October 10

The leak has reportedly fully stopped. 

What is the current status of the cleanup efforts?

 

The U.S. Coast Guard and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) have deployed crews to survey affected areas, recover lost oil, and prevent oil from entering wetland habitats. Booms and skimmers have been deployed offshore and onshore to prevent oil from flowing into sensitive habitats, such as wetlands. 

While CDFW was initially accepting volunteer applications, they received an overwhelming amount of support and have closed the form to new submissions. Cleanup efforts will likely continue for weeks to months as they follow the trajectory of the oil slick as it is moved by ocean currents and tides.

What do I do if I see a tarball?

 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking beach-goers to report the location, time, and date of found tarballs to [email protected].

What do I do if I see oiled wildlife?

 

If you see oiled wildlife, DO NOT attempt to rescue it yourself. Instead, report any oiled wildlife to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network hotline which can be reached at (877) 823-6926 or to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center at (949) 494-3050.

If you’d like to see updated data on the affected wild life, click here.

What can I do to help?

  • Follow city advisories and avoid any affected beaches to keep yourself safe, as well as allow emergency response teams to facilitate cleanup efforts.
  • Fill out this Google Form to provide Coastkeeper with information that will help inform our advocacy and restoration efforts.
  • Support organizations working to mitigate the impacts of the oil spill on our community and our wildlife through monetary donations (links below).

Who will be held responsible for the ecological and economic impacts of the spill?

Platform Elly is owned by Beta Operating Co., a subsidiary of Amplify Energy. Amplify Energy additionally owns the San Pedro Bay Pipeline Company which owns and operates the impacted pipeline. 

 

However, the cause of the oil spill is still under investigation. Coastkeeper’s legal department is preparing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Public Records Act (PRA) requests to all relevant government agencies. Coastkeeper’s legal department will assess all the facts and information as it becomes available and assess potential  legal avenues to ensure accountability of the liable party and appropriate mitigation for ecological restoration.

Recent updates revealed that damage could have been done to the ruptured pipeline months before the spill, citing the growing marine organisms on the pipe as evidence. Investigators are also considering the scenario that strong winds shifted a cargo boat off course, resulting in the boat’s dragging anchor colliding with the pipe. One theory suggests it may have occurred during a storm in January of 2021.

 

In addition to investigating this particular spill, Coastkeeper’s legal department is in the process of developing a comprehensive review of all offshore oil and gas operations along the Orange County Coast to monitor and assess compliance with environmental regulations. If our legal department discovers instances of non-compliance at other offshore operations, it will work to enforce compliance to prevent future spills and ecological disasters. Read about how our in-house legal department enforces the federal Clean Water Act here.

I have oil on my boat. What should I do?

While dish soap will remove oil from your boat’s hull, it will trap the oil and sink it to the bottom of the harbor. This puts our wildlife at danger. Instead, please call the Southern California Spill Response team at (866) 985-8366 for guidance.

What beaches are currently closed?

Beaches across the county are opening sooner than expected. However, Coastkeeper advises the avoidance of all beaches for the safety of the public and to allow agencies working on spill cleanup to continue their efforts.

How many offshore oil platforms are there in California?

There are 23 offshore oil platforms in California. Coastkeeper is reigniting the conversation with both legislators and oil companies to expedite the path to decommissioning all platforms.