By Stephanie Dazio, Matthew Brown and Brian Meley
Long Beach, Calif. (AP) — Evidence emerged Tuesday that a ship’s anchor pulled and pulled an underwater pipeline that broke and spilled thousands of gallons of crude oil off Southern California, an accident the Coast Guard said. admitted that he didn’t investigate about 10 hours after the first call about a possible leak.
Federal transportation investigators said the pipe had split open and a nearly one-mile-long section was apparently pulled along the ocean floor, possibly “an anchorage that bent the pipeline, causing a partial tear.”
“The pipeline is essentially pulled like a bow string,” said Martin Wilser, CEO of Amplify Energy Corp., which operates the pipeline. “At its widest point, it is 105 feet (32 m) away from where it was.”
Huge cargo ships regularly pass over the pipeline as they pass through the massive Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex. They are given the coordinates where they anchor until unloaded.
Even when anchored, cargo ships are constantly propelled by the moving winds and tides. Steven Brown, a professor of maritime transportation, said if a ship fails to properly set its anchor in the ocean floor, those forces of nature come into play and can push the ship and pull the anchor down. can, potentially catch anything. at the California State University Maritime Academy.
Anchors on larger ships can weigh 10 tons or more and are attached to steel chains hundreds of feet thick. “Anything that spoils the anchor will come with the ship,” Brown said.
Up to 126,000 gallons (572,807 litres) of heavy crude spilled into the sea off Huntington Beach. It then washed up on miles of beaches and a protected marshland.
Beaches could remain closed for weeks or longer, a huge hit to the local economy. Coastal fisheries in the area are closed to commercial and recreational fishing. On the shore, animal rescuers are pleasantly surprised to see some birds covered in oil.
The timing of the outbreak on Tuesday was still unclear, and there was no indication whether investigators suspected a particular ship was involved.
Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter, a Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee’s Monitoring and Investigation subcommittee, said the panel would investigate the incident.
“We’re going to make sure we have an answer to how it happened, and to make sure we hold the responsible party accountable,” said Porter, who heads a district a few miles from the spill area. represents.
Coast Guard officials defended their decision to wait until sunrise on Saturday to investigate a possible leak, reported Friday at 8:22 p.m. near a group of boats anchored off Huntington Beach by a commercial vessel Can go
That view was supported by a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at 2:06 a.m. Saturday at the National Response Center, a hazardous spill hotline operated by the Coast Guard, which said satellite images showed an oil spill. Strong potential is shown.
Residents of nearby Newport Beach also complained about the strong smell of petroleum on Friday evening, and police served notices to the public about it.
The Coast Guard was alerted to a glow on the water by a “Good Samaritan”, but did not have sufficient corroborating evidence and was hampered by darkness and a lack of technology to seek spills, Coast Guard Rear Admiral Bryan Penauer told the Associated Press.
He said the Coast Guard conducted a broadcast with the oil spill for several cargo and tanker ships anchored at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, asking for more information, but did not receive a response.
Coast Guard Captain Rebecca Ore later disputed that account. She said the Coast Guard did not transmit any information to ships or oil platforms, and Penauer later said she needed to check her facts.
Pennoyer said it is quite common to receive reports of oil spills in a major port.
“After all, it seems obvious, but they didn’t know at the time,” Penauer said.
Federal pipeline safety investigators timed the spill at 2:30 a.m. Saturday, when they said the alarm sounded in the control room of the Amplify-owned offshore oil rig. This was a warning that the pressure in the pipeline had dropped, indicating a possible leak.
The Pipeline and Dangerous Materials Safety Administration said the pipeline was closed at 6:01 a.m. Saturday.
However, Wilser said the company was not aware of the leak until it noticed a glow on the water at 8:09 a.m.
According to PHMSA, the pipeline company did not report the spill until either 8:55 am on Saturday, depending on the state report, or until 9:07 am. At that time, the Coast Guard was in the water for a few hours and discovered the leak while Amplify was preparing the report.
The company’s spill-response plan calls for immediate notification of spills. Criminal charges have been brought in the past when a company took too long to notify federal and state officials about the spill.
Speaking at a news conference, Governor Gavin Newsom reiterated his call for America to move beyond oil. Newsom last year signed an executive order banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles until 2035.
“It is time, once and for all, to abuse ourselves that this should be part of our future. It is part of our past,” he told Bolsa Chica State Beach, where he spoke to local, state and federal officials. joined to discuss the spill.
During the two-hour boat trip from Huntington Beach beach, an AP video journalist saw no visible oil. Pelicans and other seabirds swam on the calm waters, and four dolphins swam from the boat.
Dozens of cargo ships were seen anchored offshore, sharing space with about half a dozen oil platforms. Dozens of workers in white suits reached the shoreline to remove the accumulated oil.
Investigators said the break in the line occurred at a depth of about 98 feet (30 meters) over a distance of about 5 miles. Those findings were included in a Department of Transportation order that prohibited the company from restarting the pipeline without extensive inspection and testing.
The order did not identify the source of the investigators’ information, and agency officials did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
Associated Press journalists Michael Blood and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles, Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, Michael Bisker in Washington and Eugene Garcia and Amy Taxin in Huntington Beach, California contributed to this report.