Southern California region still suffering from the effects of the October oil spill

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Last month’s oil spill off the coast of Southern California dumped approximately 25,000 gallons of crude into the Pacific Ocean, directly affecting hundreds of thousands of coastal residents and causing extensive damage to wildlife habitats in the region. Investigations have been underway for more than seven weeks as small businesses and surrounding ecosystems still suffer from the long-term effects of the spill.

Birds are seen as workers in protective gear clean up the contaminated beach after an oil spill in Newport Beach, Calif., Wednesday, October 6, 2021 [Credit: AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu]

As of this writing, the ruptured pipeline connected to the Elly offshore platform, where the spill originated from, remains closed as clean-up efforts continue in surrounding areas.

According to the University of Southern California’s Sea Grant program, which studies the oceans and their ecosystems, 5,544 gallons of oil, 13.6 barrels (or 571.2 gallons) of tarballs and 546,782 pounds of sand and Oiled debris was collected from 588 miles of shoreline as of Nov. 8.

Additionally, the University of California-Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network reported that 116 affected birds and seven marine mammals have been recovered, with only 34 of those birds and one mammal recovered alive. As no oiled wildlife has been recovered in recent days, additional rescues have been canceled while damage to shoreline and other habitats remains unknown pending further investigation.

Almost two months later, businesses such as Fisheries remained closed due to public health concerns. Public beaches, however, were open to the public as early as October 11, just nine days after the spill began.

Local authorities began sampling seafood on October 24. This process is expected to take up to six weeks, as a similar time frame was required for the 2015 Santa Barbara oil spill. Fisheries and individual fishers remain in a state of uncertainty pending the outcome of the process.

In a recent interview with Fox News, Eric Zelien, owner of EZ Sportfishing in Huntington Beach, explained how his business declined during this recent disaster.

Zelien said: “Most of our residents are rescheduling their trips. It’s kind of like when COVID first hit. “

Even though Zelien fishes 90 miles offshore, away from the state-imposed 12-mile no-fishing zone, many visitors remain skeptical about the quality of the catch.

All of the beachfront businesses that have remained open, such as hotels and restaurants, have seen their customer base dwindle due to these same health issues, contributing to the already dire situation that many small business owners have endured for. the COVID-19 pandemic.

The environmental and economic fallout caused by the oil spill sparked an influx of lawsuits against Amplify Energy.

Orange County officials estimate they will spend nearly $ 1.5 million on cleanup costs and plan to sue Amplify Energy if the county is not reimbursed through the spill claims process.

Environmental activists are also suing the federal government for their failure to review and update platforms on the California coast.

Miyoko Sakashita, director of oceans at the Center for Biological Diversity, cited federal law in a recent lawsuit that states that the government is required to review plans for oil development and production in federal waters and revise them in response. to changing conditions or activities, but Sakashita says this rarely happens.

These oil rigs, built in the 1980s, have not been replaced or reinforced in the past 40 years, suggesting the California coastline may have dozens of time bombs waiting for perfect conditions to materialize, causing a new ecological disaster in the future. .

“It’s not legal for them to just continue with these very old development and production plans,” Sakashita told Assoicate Press. “The infrastructure is aging and things need to be done differently. “

It’s also worth noting that Beta Offshoring Company, which operates the oil rig responsible for the spill on behalf of Amplify Energy, was cited a total of 125 times for security breaches and only paid off. a paltry sum of $ 85,000 in fines in total. while continuing to operate relentlessly.

While dozens of lawsuits have been filed against Amplify Energy, these cases often take years to settle before being resolved, and many wonder if pipeline owners will be able to pay for all the damages.

Amplify Energy declined to comment on whether its insurance will cover all costs associated with the spill, and even said in its 10-K annual report to investors in December of last year, prior to the spill, “We cannot guarantee that our coverage will be useless. adequately protect against liability for all consequences, damage and potential loss.

There is also speculation that Amplify Energy will cut their subsidiaries Beta Offshore Company and San Pedro Bay Pipeline, allow them to go bankrupt and file for bankruptcy in order to avoid any loss of profits which will place all costs on the taxpayers. themselves, as has been done. during the Santa Barbara oil spill in 2015.

According to experts, this can only happen by shifting the responsibility onto someone else, such as their subsidiaries or one of the many ships whose anchor may have damaged the pipeline on its way to the port.

As long as Amplify Energy can prove in court that it is not responsible for this disaster, the company can avoid substantial losses to its profitability.

This is most likely the case given that Amplify Energy has twice declined invitations to attend public meetings on the subject.

Dan Steward, vice president of beta operations at Amplify Energy, released a statement explaining the company’s refusal to attend, stating: “Given the various ongoing investigations into this incident, we are unable to responsibly answer your questions at this time. “

In a public meeting on Nov. 15, Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr asked why Amplify Energy waited hours to shut down the fractured pipeline after an alarm alerted staff to the oil leak.

“Hours make a huge difference,” Carr said. “If we had had a few more hours” then more damage could have been avoided.

One question that remains unanswered is whether Amplify Energy ignored any major safety concerns or ignored the initial alarm that informed employees of the spill in order to meet their quotas.

Amplify Energy reported an increase in oil production from 1,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (bepd) to 24,000 to 25,000 in August, an increase of 2,400%.

As investigations continue, some state Democratic Party officials are calling for a reduction or complete elimination of offshore drilling on the California coast.

MP Cottie Petrie-Norris, who also attended the November 15 meeting, said “we all know the only way to prevent this is [oil spill] with 100 percent certainty is to end offshore drilling and oil production.

Calls to end offshore drilling and oil production, however, ring hollow as the Biden administration plans to auction more than 80,000 acres of oil farms in the Gulf of Mexico following the summit on the climate change COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Such disasters and the conditions that cause them will continue until there is a labor movement that takes oil conglomerates out of the hands of energy conglomerates and organizes energy production on a democratic and scientific basis.


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