Oil spill at Huntington

Karen Wang, Staff Writer

Immediate closures of Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and portions of the Crystal Cove State Park came after exterior damage to an offshore pipeline caused an estimated 25,000 gallons of crude oil to spill off the coast of Huntington Beach on Oct. 2.
The oil created a growing 25-square-mile sheen on the ocean surface and washed ashore in the form of sticky tar balls. Post-spill investigations noted a 13-inch crack in the 17.5-mile pipeline along with the displacement of a 4,000-foot section of it by over 100 feet. Speculation has pointed to possible ship anchors snagging onto the pipeline.
“Big oil will try to explain how the spill could have never occurred, but the truth is that the pipeline should never have been in the ocean in the first place,” Enviro Club publicist junior Rahma Ahmed said. “Many equate environmental issues with using plastic straws or not recycling, but the bigger issue is large corporations shifting the blame onto everyone but themselves.”
The now-defunct pipeline was built to transfer processed ocean crude oil from oil platforms coined “Elly” and “Ellen” to be made into usable fuel on shore. The spill prompted California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Orange County Board of Supervisors to declare a state of emergency.
“The state is moving to cut red tape and mobilize all available resources to protect public health and the environment,” Newsom said in a press release on Oct. 4. “As California continues to lead the nation in phasing out fossil fuels and combating the climate crisis, this incident serves as a reminder of the enormous cost fossil fuels have on our communities and the environment.”
Although in federal waters, the pipeline is owned by the Houston-based company, Amplify Energy Corp. The company’s CEO, Martyn Willsher, came under fire as the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration alleged that the pipeline was not shut off until over three hours after alarms went off. District attorney Todd Spitzer launched a criminal investigation into Amplify Energy on Oct. 7.
Huntington Beach has since reopened after water quality testing reported a lack of harmful amounts of oil-related toxins. However, long-term impacts remain as officials probe fisheries and investigate habitat damage. Although the oil itself can cause immediate harm to wildlife, oil toxins can remain for decades and cause long-term harm to local food webs.
“I hope students will use this event as a reminder that we can’t take our beloved natural areas for granted,” AP Environmental Science teacher Megan Stuart said. “The places we love for their natural beauty are there because there are people willing to work hard to protect them.”
The Huntington Beach City Council proposed a new resolution calling for a permanent ban on new oil refineries off the coast of its city while the Laguna Beach City Council carried a larger demand to end all oil drilling within California.
“While the state and federal governments have jurisdiction over offshore drilling, these resolutions communicate to policymakers that local interests are aligned against drilling,” Oceans Director of the Center for Biological Diversity Miyoko Sakashita said.
Residents are advised to avoid interaction with contaminated animals and instead contact the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. Those interested in lending a hand can donate to Bolsa Chica Conservancy’s Oil Response Fund.