GOLETA (CBSLA.com) — Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Wednesday a day after a ruptured pipeline spilled thousands of gallons of oil off the California coast.
The rupture onshore Tuesday morning happened northwest of Santa Barbara and caused thousands of gallons of oil to spew into the Pacific Ocean near Refugio State Beach along a 9-mile stretch threatening wildlife.
“This emergency proclamation cuts red tape and helps the state quickly mobilize all available resources,” Brown said. “We will do everything necessary to protect California’s coastline.”
Federal regulators are investigating what caused the pipeline owned by Texas-based Plains All American Pipeline LP to burst. The company has admitted it was its pipeline that spewed the oil.
“You should know that we deeply, deeply regret that this incident has occurred at all. We apologize for the damage that it’s done to the wildlife and to the environment,” Greg Armstrong of Plains said.
The U.S. Coast Guard said crews who spent the day gathering bags of oil and debris had collected about 6,000 gallons of oil.
Brown said the spill resulted in the closure of impacted beaches in the area, as well as fishing and shellfish harvesting for a mile east and west of the spill.
“We’ll likely be working with the Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and making a determination as to whether this is a criminal, civil or a matter that was just simply an accident,” said Joyce Dudley, the District Attorney for the County of Santa Barbara.
Dudley said she had assigned a deputy District Attorney and investigator, who specialize in environmental law, to review potentially relevant criminal and civil statutes following the rupture.
Plains All American says they experienced mechanical issues around 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, which caused the pipeline to shut down. They restarted the pumps just before 11 a.m. The first signs of the leak emerged just before noon after a passerby reported an odor of crude oil, which could be seen in the water and on the sand.
“The fact is the spilled oil is difficult to contain and collect once it’s on the water. Therefore, it is likely there will be some environmental impacts, including oiled birds and oiled shoreline,” Mark Crossland of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said.
It’s still unclear what caused the pipe to rupture, although CBS2 has been told it was regularly inspected and had shown no sign of weakness.