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California Oil Company Warned for Cutting Corners in Repairing Leaky Pipeline

WASHINGTON -

The Center for Biological Diversity warned DCOR, LLC in a letter today that the company failed to comply with a California law requiring a Coastal Development Permit for its repair of an offshore oil pipeline that leaked in December.

DCOR’s pipeline — which was built in 1963 and runs from Platform Eva to shore through state waters — cracked and spilled oil 1 mile off Huntington Beach in December, threatening sensitive areas. This spill came just two months after another pipeline spilled tens of thousands of gallons in the same area.

“This is an old, dangerously leaky pipeline, and it’s appalling that repair work proceeded without a key permit or crucial steps to prevent future disasters,” said Emily Jeffers, the letter author and a staff attorney in the Center’s Oceans Program. “We’re putting this bad actor on notice. It’s disturbing that a company that recently spilled oil on our coast skipped a permitting process and has failed to update its pipeline to state-of-the-art oil spill prevention standards.”

The company ignored the requirement to obtain a permit from the California Coastal Commission for permanent pipeline repairs even though there was no urgency because the leak had been stopped and the pipeline shut down and purged of oil. The Center’s letter warns DCOR that the company must now obtain an “after-the-fact” permit from the Coastal Commission to avoid legal liability.

The letter also raises concerns about the company asking state officials for an exemption from the legal requirement to retrofit the pipeline with the “best available technology,” as required by a California law passed after the 2015 Refugio oil spill. The company used a loophole in the law to claim that this pipeline is not classified as a pipeline — an exemption that was granted by the Office of the State Fire Marshal. The letter urges DCOR to reverse course with this pipeline and four other pipelines that the company claims are exempt.

Today’s letter notes the risk of more oil spills from aging offshore oil infrastructure. State agencies have reported that spill risk more than doubles as pipelines age between 20 and 40 years. Platform Eva and the pipeline to shore were installed off Huntington Beach in 1963 and have persisted for nearly 60 years.

The letter also notes that DCOR’s pipeline rupture in December is only the latest in a long line of oil spills in Southern California, including an October 2021 spill off Huntington Beach that fouled sensitive beaches and wetlands, forced fisheries closures, and harmed fish, birds and marine mammals. Aside from observed impacts, the true scale of ecosystem and wildlife impacts of the two Huntington Beach spills will remain out of sight at sea.

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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. 

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