State Attorney General Rob Bonta announced on Monday that the California Department of Justice would be investigating the Huntington Beach oil spill, becoming the second entity following the U.S. Coast Guard to look into the matter.
The spill, which began sometime on October 1st, released 3,000 barrels, or 126,000 gallons, into the water off the coast of Northern Orange County before being halted. While Huntington Beach and other beaches recently reopened on Monday, environmental problems persist, such as tar balls now coming ashore in lower Orange County and San Diego County.
So far, the Coast Guard’s investigation has found that it was likely that the spill happened because of a ships anchor striking the pipeline, although nothing conclusive has been released. What is known is that the pipeline was dragged more than 100 feet across the ocean floor and that it had ruptured.
With the cause still up in the air, environmental damage questions still going unanswered, and mounting criticisms over the response to the spill, Attorney General Bonta announced California’s involvement in the spills investigation on Monday.
Attorney General Bonta, speaking outside a California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) meting in Orange County with Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) on Monday, specifically highlighted the environmental harm in his announcement.
“The oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach is an environmental disaster with far-reaching consequences for our fish and wildlife, for our communities, and for our economy,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “I want to thank all our local, state, and federal partners who are working around the clock to protect the health and safety of Californians and to mitigate the damage to our environment and natural resources. In times of crisis, it takes all of us – working together – to get the job done. My office is committed to devoting the people and the resources necessary to ensure this environmental disaster is fully investigated, and we will follow the facts wherever they lead us.”
Adding to Bonta’s statement, Senator Padilla noted that “It is unacceptable that Californians are once again facing the devastating effects of an offshore oil spill. The trade-off between oil production and environmental harm is simply not one we should be making any longer, especially given how fossil fuel emissions are exacerbating the climate crisis. Already, this oil has seeped into environmentally sensitive wetlands, endangering birds and other wildlife, and forcing the closure of beaches that are the economic engines of entire communities. I am committed to fulfilling the promises we made to our children and our constituents that we will act boldly to meet the urgency of this crisis.”
A second investigation into the spill
Despite heavier involvement now coming from the state government, environmental experts note that the California Department of Justice’s involvement will likely find little different from the Coast Guard’s finding.
“What Bonta did was just political posturing,” said Hazel Adams, an environmental lawyer who has been a part of oil spill related lawsuits in the past, to the Globe on Tuesday. “Federal investigations, like Coast Guard investigations, are golden because there is no stance or political pressure. They just give the facts of the matter, point to who or what caused this, and fleshes the cause and everything around it.”
“State investigations often times just second what the Coast Guard said while focusing more on local impacts. In California’s case this time it’s based on environmental damage. And there has been some, but they are freaking out like it is Deepwater Horizon part two, when in reality it was caught pretty quick even with some fumbling around over initially reporting it in. You could see that by all the beaches opening up months sooner than expected.”
“Unless you wanted a more environmentally tinged view, the Coast Guard report will be the way to go. Again, there is useful info in more local spill reports, but they are politicized, no matter how much they say they won’t be. Look at any previous Californian spill report to see how that is done.”
A more clear cause of the Huntington Beach spill is due to be released by the Coast Guard in the coming months.
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