HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA) – Officials are setting up free decontamination stations to clean the dozens of boats that got covered in oil from last weekend’s Huntington Beach spill.
The stations will be in place for the estimated 200 boats that got oil stuck to their hulls and need to be cleaned, officials say.
“We are so fortunate, we have Newport is a site where we’ll have a decontamination site here,” Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley told CBSLA Sunday. “So we have heard that there are 204 vessels — that could be jet skis, boats, sailboats — anything that got oil
Meanwhile, environmental activists pressured Orange County Rep. Michelle Steel to join efforts to ban offshore oil drilling, but the Republican congresswoman said she has introduced legislation to crack down on the traffic jam of cargo ships along the coast.
The Stopping Hazardous Incidents in the Pacific Act, or SHIP Act, would prohibit cargo ships from idling or anchoring within 24 nautical miles of the Southern California coast. Steel said she introduced the legislation after learning that investigators suspect an anchor from a ship may have caused the Oct. 2 Orange County leak. The ban would last for six months or until President Joe Biden declares that a backlog in the ports was over.
“Cargo ships idling for months off the Orange County coastline have become an environmental and public health crisis,” Steel said in a statement. “It’s time to get the ports working again and get these ships moving and out of our waters. This crisis could have been prevented and it’s important that we protect our waters and coastline.”
About two dozen activists went to Steel’s office in Huntington Beach Tuesday to appeal to her to support legislation in the Build Back Better bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Levin, D-Dana Point, that would stop future offshore drilling in federal waters. There is already a ban on state waters.
Steel has not responded to a request since last week asking for her position on the proposed legislation.
on it in the last week, can come here to Newport Beach and Huntington Beach to get cleaned.”
Unified Command, which is heading up the oil cleanup effort, is made up of the U.S. Coast Guard, officials from Orange and San Diego counties, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Amplify Energy, the company which owns the pipeline which leaked the oil.
The pipeline rupture and leak was reported on the morning of Oct. 2. The spill occurred in federal waters at the Elly oil-rig platform, about 4 1/2 miles off-shore of O.C. The nearly 18-mile pipeline runs from Amplify Energy’s offshore drilling platforms to a pump station in Long Beach.
Federal authorities have confirmed that a section of Amplify Energy’s oil pipeline was damaged and moved more than 100 feet along the ocean floor, an indication that a ship’s anchor may have caused the spill.
Attorney General Rob Bonta and Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, toured the site and received a briefing from Coast Guard officials before Bonta announced his office is investigating the leak to determine if any civil or criminal action is warranted.
Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, announced a select committee on the oil spill will be led by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie- Norris, D-Laguna Beach.
“We’re doing an investigation,” Bonta said. “We are determining whether civil or criminal enforcement action is appropriate. … We are prepared to do what is necessary to get a full accounting of what happened.”
Although the leak occurred in federal waters, Bonta said his office had the authority to conduct civil or criminal probes.
“We represent multiple agencies and departments that have an interest such as parks and recreation, fish and wildlife, the coastal commission, state lands,” Bonta said.
He noted Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer was also doing an investigation and that his office was collaborating with those prosecutors.
But, Bonta added, “We can’t get to the liability and burden of proof until we know what the facts are.”
Padilla noted that cleanup workers were making “tremendous, tremendous, tremendous progress.”
Authorities initially estimated that as much as 144,000 gallons of oil may have leaked from the damaged pipeline, but officials said Thursday the actual amount is likely much lower, although there is still no firm number. At a news conference Thursday afternoon, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Rebecca Ore estimated that roughly 588 barrels of oil had spilled, which would equate to about 24,700 gallons.
There are questions regarding when Amplify Energy actually discovered the leak, and whether there was a delay in reporting it to state and federal authorities.
Meanwhile, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network reported Sunday that its responders had so far recovered 58 species impacted by the spill, 50 birds and eight fish. Twenty-six of the birds were recovered alive, but all eight of the fish were dead.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)