HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., Oct. 3 (Reuters) – A major oil spill off the southern California coast was called an “environmental disaster” by the mayor of Huntington Beach on Sunday after a ruptured pipeline left dead fish and birds strewn on the sand and offshore wetlands clogged with oil.
An estimated 126,000 gallons, or 3,000 barrels, had spilled into an oil slick covering about 13 square miles of the Pacific Ocean since it was first reported on Saturday morning, Kim Carr said, Mayor of Huntington Beach at a press conference. The seaside town, about 40 miles south of Los Angeles, has been the hardest hit.
Carr, who called the spill a “potential environmental disaster”, added: “Our wetlands are degrading and parts of our coastline are now covered with oil.”
The spill was caused by a breach connected to the Elly oil rig and stretched from the Huntington Beach Pier to Newport Beach, a part of the coast popular with surfers and sunbathers.
Carr said the oil rig is operated by Beta Offshore, a California subsidiary of Houston-based Amplify Energy Corporation (AMPY.N). Calls to Beta and Amplify went unanswered.
Carr, in his remarks, added: âIn the days and weeks to come, we challenge the responsible parties to do everything possible to rectify this environmental catastrophe.
Amplify Energy CEO Martyn Willsher told a press conference in Long Beach that the pipeline has now been closed and the remaining oil has been sucked out. He said divers were still trying to figure out where and why the spill occurred.
U.S. Representative Michelle Steel, a Republican representing part of the affected area, sent a letter to Democratic President Joe Biden requesting a declaration of major disaster for Orange County, which would free up federal funds to help with cleanup efforts .
Cottie Petrie-Norris, a member of the Democratic State Assembly representing some areas affected by the spill, said she had “huge concerns” about the extent of the damage to the environment, to communities and the local economy.
She told CNN the spill was a “call to action that we must stop drilling off our precious California coast.”
Oil production off the coast of California has declined sharply since its peak in the 1990s, in part because of the state’s strict environmental regulations. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has said he wants to end oil drilling in the state by 2045.
Offshore drilling was restricted in the state after a devastating 1969 oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara that dumped 80,000 barrels into the ocean. More recently, another spill off Santa Barbara in 2015 sent up to 2,400 barrels ashore and into the Pacific.
Oceana, an ocean conservation group, has also called for an end to offshore oil and gas drilling.
Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s policy director, said in a statement: “This is just the latest tragedy in the oil industry. It is high time to prevent future oil spills by permanently protecting our coasts from offshore drilling. “
The spill occurred in federal waters. In a statement, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), a division of the Home Office, said it supports response efforts led by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The office said its role was “to help identify the location and source of any spill and to provide technical assistance to stop the spill.”
The state Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the California governor’s office of emergency services were also involved in the response, Petrie-Norris said. Newsom’s office, in a statement, said officials there were “working closely” with the coast guard and others to monitor the spill.
Orange County supervisor Katrina Foley said on Sunday that oil had seeped into Talbert Marsh, a large ecological reserve, causing “significant damage”.
Beaches have been closed to swimming and a local air show has been canceled, although some people were not discouraged to set up chairs on the beach to enjoy a sunny Sunday or stroll along the beach. pier.
Carr said officials have deployed 2,050 feet of protective dams, which help contain and slow the flow of oil.
The US Coast Guard, working with local and state agencies, flew planes to assess the spill and hired contractors to clean it up.
Officials said they were investigating the cause of the spill and the type of oil involved.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Tim Reid and Nichola Groom in Los Angeles; David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Christopher Cushing
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