Today the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard officially ordered Plains All American Pipeline to clean up the Refugio Beach oil spill caused by a failure of its nearby pipeline. The joint order, authorized under the Clean Water Act, serves to ensure that Plains will continues its work inland, on the beach, and in the ocean, to contain the oil and prevent further shoreline contamination. The order establishes federally enforceable timelines and cleanup requirements for the long-term response action that will be required.
The May 19, 2015, pipeline failure resulted in the largest coastal spill in California in the last 25 years. It released approximately 2,500 barrels (105,000 gallons) of crude oil into the environment, which eventually made its way to the beach and the Pacific Ocean.
Under today’s order, Plains has been formally required to:
- Continue current oil removal and site control operations until a work plan is approved
- Submit a written work plan for response activities, including plans for sampling and analyzing air, water, rocks and soil, to the Coast Guard and EPA by June 6, 2015.
- Ensure no more oil is released into the environment
- Clean up all remaining oil and petroleum contamination at the release and oil-impacted areas
Personnel from EPA and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will be investigating the cause of the pipeline failure and the environmental impacts of the spill. The investigation will be done in cooperation with other federal, state, and local authorities. Known as the Unified Command, it was formed immediately after the spill occurred and includes, EPA, the Coast Guard, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, and Santa Barbara County’s Office of Emergency Management.
To date, the Unified Command has overseen nearly 1,000 responders who have worked to contain and clean up the spill. The response has included 2,240 feet of hard boom and 1,840 feet of sorbent boom on the ocean. Skimming operations have removed 10,060 gallons of oily water. Work crews on land have removed 310 cubic yards of oiled vegetation, 760 cubic yards of oiled sand, and 2,610 cubic yards of oiled soil.
“Our action today is to make sure the oil response work continues until the Santa Barbara County coastline is restored,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Working closely with our local, state and federal partners, we will see this cleanup through to the end.”
“The Coast Guard will maintain its course to completion,” said Capt. Jennifer Williams, Unified Command Federal On-Scene Coordinator. “While this defines Plains Pipeline as the responsible party, federal and state agencies will continue to work alongside the responsible party and maintain our priority of safety of the public, personnel and the environment.”