California Attorney General Launches Probe Into Oil Spill ‘Disaster’

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
October 12, 2021 Updated: October 12, 2021

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced on Monday that the state’s Justice Department has launched an investigation into the major oil spill off the coast of Orange County’s Huntington Beach.

The offshore oil spill leaked up to 132,000 gallons of crude oil from an undersea pipeline, killing dozens of animals and threatening coastal wetlands and wildlife. The spill was confirmed on Oct. 2, a day after residents reported a petroleum smell in the area.

The oil spill is “an environmental disaster with far-reaching consequences for our fish and wildlife, for our communities, and for our economy,” Bonta said in a statement. “My office is committed to devoting the people and the resources necessary to ensure this environmental disaster is fully investigated, and we will follow the facts wherever they lead us.”

The department will work with with other state, local, and federal authorities to determine the cause of the spill and what, if anything, could have been done to prevent or minimize the disaster, the attorney general’s office said.

Bonta made the announcement during a visit to Orange County for a special briefing by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR), the U.S. Coast Guard, and the company responsible for the spill, Amplify Energy.

He told reporters that it isn’t yet clear whether the probe will prompt a criminal or civil action, but the said the department is “prepared to do what is necessary to get a full accounting of what happened, how it happened, who did what when, and fully reveal the facts and circumstances of this incident.”

Huntington Beach’s city and state beaches reopened on Monday after more than a week of closures. Officials said water quality tests revealed no detectable levels of oil-associated toxins in the ocean water.

Officials said they believe the pipeline was likely damaged by a ship’s anchor several months to a year before it ruptured. It remains unknown when the slender, 13-inch crack in the pipeline began leaking oil.

By Sunday, there was no smell of oil and the sand looked largely clear by the Huntington Beach pier, where workers combed the sand for tar.

Officials in the city of 200,000 people have said the water testing will continue for at least two more weeks.

“It is unacceptable that Californians are once again facing the devastating effects of an offshore oil spill,” Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) told reporters at the press briefing on Monday. “The trade-off between oil production and environmental harm is simply not one we should be making any longer.”

“Already, this oil has seeped into environmentally sensitive wetlands, endangering birds and other wildlife, and forcing the closure of beaches that are the economic engines of entire communities. I am committed to fulfilling the promises we made to our children and our constituents that we will act boldly to meet the urgency of this crisis,” Padilla added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.