Massive Southern California Oil Spill Killing Birds, Marine Life
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What’s the story?
- A suspected leak in an underwater pipeline released at least 125,000 gallons of oil into waters off the coast of Orange County in one of the largest spills in recent California history.
- The spill is said to have originated from a pipeline operated by Beta Offshore, a subsidiary of Amplify Energy Corporation, but the exact cause is still unknown.
- A response effort headed by the U.S. Coast Guard, along with city, state, and federal agencies, has been underway since Saturday. On Sunday, officials reported that about 3,150 gallons of oil had been removed and over a mile of booms were deployed to try to contain the oil.
- Here’s the latest on what officials are saying about the spill...
A Devastating Developing Situation
- Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said that the impact of the spill on the environment is “irreversible” in a statement on Saturday. Oil, dead birds, and fish were found washing up on the shore on Sunday, according to Foley.
- Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery reported seeing dolphins swimming through oil. The area affected is home to various threatened and endangered species, including the California humpback whale.
- At a news conference on Sunday afternoon, Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said that the spill was “one of the most devastating situations our community has dealt with in decades.”
- Carr said that officials were looking into measures to ensure that the “responsible parties” to blame for the spill are held accountable.
- Democratic state assembly member Cottie Petrie Norris told CNN the spill was a “call to action that we need to stop drilling off our precious California coast.”
- An investigation into the cause of the spill and the environmental impact was opened by the U.S. Coast Guard, but experts say it might take weeks to reveal the full extent of the damage.
History of Damage
- In 1969, an oil well blowout in Santa Barbara, California caused the largest oil spill in U.S. waters at the time and helped launch a wave of environmental efforts.
- California eventually blocked all new offshore drilling leases after the incident, and new leases have been blocked state-wide since 1994 and federally since 1984.
- Despite the long-term bans, ongoing production has been able to continue on existing drilling platforms. Today, 27 offshore oil and gas platforms operate off the coast of California in state and federal waters.
- Oil spills continue to plague California’s wetlands and waterways. Most recently in 2015, a ruptured oil pipeline released 143,000 gallons of oil onto Refugio State Beach. The cleanup costs of the spills were estimated to be nearly $100 million.
- A recent report by Oceana estimated that permanent offshore drilling protections for all federal waters could prevent over 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions and more than $720 billion in damages to people, property, and the environment.
Fight Back Against Ocean Pollution
- This event is just the latest in a continual onslaught of damage to the world’s oceans. If you want to take action on oil spill prevention, here are some resources.
- The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has been working for years to stop offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic through legal action and political advocacy. Join their Activist Network to stay informed on environmental issues and progress reports.
- California Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced the West Coast Ocean Protection Act in January to permanently ban oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington. Contact your representative and tell them you support the bill.
If you are in the immediate Orange County coastal area:
Agencies involved in cleanup say they do not need volunteers to help with the cleanup or animal rescue efforts at this time, saying that it could hinder the response. Instead, they ask that individuals who see oiled wildlife immediately report any sightings to the OWCN and check for volunteer openings at a later time. Donations of specific cleanup supplies are being accepted by the Orange County office.
Our oceans are vulnerable not just to oil pollution, but plastic pollution as well.
- Each square kilometer of ocean contains an average of about 13,000 pieces of plastic. A Pew study published in July found that the amount of plastic trash that ends up in the ocean is expected to nearly triple by 2040.
- That's why we're hoping to set a new world record this month: cleaning up 1 million pounds of toxic plastics from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
- WinTogether's latest campaign benefits the work of the Ocean Voyages Institute (OVI), the world’s leading organization in removing ghost nets and toxic plastics from our seas. Donate now, and you'll also become eligible to win a trip to Ecuador.
(Image Credit: Getty Images)
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