Following the oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer called on the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Office of Pipeline Safety to immediately inspect all Orange County oil pipelines for structural vulnerabilities, according to a statement from Spitzer’s office.
In an open letter to the pipeline safety office, Spitzer said he has concerns regarding any environmental damage the oil will bring.
“I am extremely concerned regarding the vulnerable oil pipeline infrastructure off the coasts of Orange and Los Angeles Counties,” Spitzer wrote. “Those waters have been subject to an unprecedented influx of shipping traffic as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced large container ships to anchor for extended periods of time as they wait offshore to be allowed into the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to be offloaded.”
That same shipping traffic is suspected to be the cause of the pipe rupture.
U.S. Coast Guard investigators currently believe that the underwater pipeline was struck by an anchor of one or more container ships while waiting to unload cargo at the Los Angeles/Long Beach ports.
The pipeline was also found to have been dragged 105 feet from its original location.
The mistake has “devastated the local ecology, including protected wetlands, and caused millions of dollars of economic devastation to local businesses that were already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Spitzer wrote. “The overwhelming impacts to the environment and our economy will continue for decades.”
Amplify Energy, the company operating the pipeline, said they immediately shut down oil operations as soon as they discovered oil in the water, although questions still remain regarding automatic shutoff procedures and how long the company took to shut down operations after receiving a low-pressure alarm.
So far, around 5,500 gallons of oil have been recovered by cleanup crews.
In the letter, Spitzer additionally demanded pipeline operators off the coast of Orange County be required to submit certified statements attesting to their pipelines’ current physical condition under penalty of perjury.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta launched an investigation into the incident on Oct. 11 to determine what caused the spill as well as to launch criminal or civil action if necessary.
Huntington Beach and Newport Beach have fully reopened their beaches and oceans after water quality testing revealed undetectable amounts of oil, though Laguna Beach has only opened its sand, not the shoreline or the water.
A request for comment to the U.S. Department of Transportation was not immediately returned.