Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release

Contact

Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 845-6703, miyoko@biologicaldiversity.org

Press Release

Pipeline Owner in Santa Barbara Oil Spill Has Had 175 Spill Incidents Since 2006

WASHINGTON -

The company that owns the pipeline involved in Tuesday’s major oil spill in Santa Barbara has had 175 incidents (mostly oil spills) nationwide since 2006, including 11 in California, according to a Center for Biological Diversity analysis of federal documents.

Plains Pipeline (a subsidiary of Plains All-American Pipeline) has also had federal enforcement actions initiated against it 20 times since 2006 for its operations across the country, according to data from the U.S. Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Many of those cases involve corrosion control and maintenance problems on its pipelines, including two cases in 2009 for which the company was fined $115,600.

“This company’s disturbing record highlights oil production’s toxic threat to California’s coast,” said Miyoko Sakashita, the Center’s oceans program director. “Oil pipelines and offshore fracking and drilling endanger our fragile marine ecosystems. Every new oil project increases the risk of fouled beaches and oil-soaked sea life.”

The ruptured oil pipeline near Refugio State Beach — a 24-inch wide, 11-mile long section carrying oil from offshore platforms and an Exxon Mobil processing plant onshore — leaked as much as 105,000 gallons of crude oil, including 21,000 gallons making it into the ocean, fouling about nine miles of coastal waters and beaches.

The broken pipeline was 28 years old and operated by a company that has been repeatedly warned by government regulators to improve its procedures and control corrosion for its pipelines. Plains Pipeline had five incidents in California in 2014 alone, including the one that dumped oil into a Los Angeles neighborhood a year ago.

Hundreds of miles of oil pipelines run through California’s coastal areas, posing a serious threat of spills. A review released by the Center for Biological Diversity of federal data over the past 30 years shows that such oil spills from pipelines are a common and costly byproduct of oil production that has been rapidly increasing in the United States, including offshore.

An analysis of federal pipeline data commissioned last year by the Center showed there have been nearly 8,000 serious pipeline breaks nationwide since 1986, causing more than 2,300 injuries and nearly $7 billion in property damage. The vast majority of those incidents have involved oil pipelines, spilling more than 2 million barrels into waterways and on the ground. More than 35 percent of these incidents have been caused by corrosion or other spontaneous structural failures.

The Santa Barbara Channel is rich in biodiversity, including whales, dolphins and more than 500 species of fish. Endangered blue whales often feed in the channel, and it is in the migration path for four other whales listed under the Endangered Species Act. Witnesses spotted sea lions and migrating whales in the coastal waters as the spill was taking place Tuesday.

The Santa Barbara County coastline was the site of an oil platform explosion in 1969 that spilled up to 100,000 barrels of oil.

“If we’re learned anything over the past 50 years, it’s that coastal oil production remains inherently dangerous to wildlife, local communities and health of the planet,” Sakashita said. “To protect our coast, we need to stop offshore drilling and fracking and quickly transition to cleaner energy sources.”

Offshore fracking has been used hundreds of times in recent years off California’s coast, and oil companies are also making increasing use of techniques like acidizing to coax oil from beneath the ocean.

###

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive. 

Biden Urged to Sign Executive Order Guaranteeing Rail Workers Paid Sick Leave

After the president brokered a compulsory contract without a single paid day off for illness, one labor advocate implored him to "put up or shut up about how you really want them to have sick leave!"

Brett Wilkins ·


Campaigners Demand Deep Cuts to Plastic Production as Global Treaty Negotiations Ramp Up

"The scale of the problem is mind-boggling," said one advocate. "Plastic is in our blood. It's in fetuses. It's really encroaching on every aspect of human existence."

Julia Conley ·


Putting 'Profits Over People', Senate Rejects Paid Sick Leave for Rail Workers

"Senate Republicans and Joe Manchin have yet AGAIN failed working Americans by voting down seven days of paid sick leave for rail workers," lamented Rep. Jamaal Bowman.

Brett Wilkins ·


'We Must Cancel Student Debt,' Activists Argue as SCOTUS Agrees to Hear Case in February

"The right-tilted Supreme Court now holds in the balance relief for millions of hardworking Americans," said one campaigner. "It would be a giant loss for the economy if justices rule in favor of the special interests."

Jessica Corbett ·


A Labor Revolt Is Brewing... Inside the National Labor Relations Board

"From Congress, we demand funds, not furloughs," says the NLRB union. "From NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo, we demand collaboration, not coercion."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo