Earlier this week, the Governor of California announced a state of emergency after a ruptured pipeline owned by Plains All American Pipeline caused a large oil spill on the Santa Barbara coastline on Tuesday, May 19. The area is referred to as “North America’s Galapagos” because of its high level of threatened and endangered species, including six different types of fox, blue whales, and the very cute western snowy plover.
“I went out Tuesday night after the spill and saw the entire beach was covered in black crude,” Maggie Hall, a staff attorney for the Environmental Defense Center, told MTV News. “The next day they were gathering it. At this point the beach is closed to the public and they’re telling everyone to keep away.”
Many people would want to run over and volunteer to help the wildlife, but right now that isn’t an option. “Unfortunately, it’s really up to the expert agencies to be tracking the spill and containing it,” she explained. “These are hazardous chemicals, so you really want to stay away.”
That said, if volunteers do end up being needed, the Cal Spill Watch will let you know. If you live in the area and see oiled wildlife in need of help, call 877-823-6926 right away to get help from the UC Davis Wildlife Care Network.
Hall said that we don’t yet know all the details of what happened, but the Environmental Protection Agency and other local groups are investigating for possible wrongdoing. The Los Angeles Times came out with an alarming exposé on how the Plains Pipeline, the company that spilled the oil, has “accumulated 175 safety and maintenance infractions since 2006.” Last year the Plains All American Pipeline, which Plains Pipeline is a section of, earned $43 billion in revenue. But out of 1,700 pipeline operators, it comes in fifth place in terms of most infractions.
“We do know that the [Plains Pipeline] pipeline was supposed to automatically shut off under their permit, but it had to be manually shut off, so that’s definitely concerning to us,” Hall noted. Right now there might have been 105,000 gallons of crude oil spilled.
Plains Pipeline has released its own statement, saying, “Plains deeply regrets this release has occurred and is making every effort to limit its environmental impact."
However, Hall says that even if oil companies are very careful, spills will still happen. That’s why organizations like the Environmental Defense Center are working so hard on the issue of oil drilling. She said you can sign up at Environmental Defense Center for newsletters and ways to take action, and also encourages people to write to their elected officials, even if you don’t live by an ocean.
Santa Barbara was the sight of a massive oil spill in 1969 and has seen multiple smaller spills since then. Yet even now, Hall told MTV News, companies are wanting to bring in new drilling or want to expand on drilling that’s already happening.
“Even with just your day-to-day drilling operations, there’s always a risk of a spill,” Hall said. “Right now everyone’s concerned, but once the impacts are no longer visible, we need to remember the damage that this is causing to our environment.”