Governor Newsom declared the Huntington Beach oil spill as a state of emergency late on Monday as cleanup efforts continue along large stretches of beaches in Orange County.
The Huntington Beach spill began sometime on Friday according to several federal and state officials when an underwater pipeline connected the Port of Long Beach to the Ellen and Elly oil production and drilling platforms ruptured. Although the cause of the rupture is still being investigated by multiple agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the most popular theory as of Tuesday is that a boat’s anchor struck the pipeline.
According to new data revealed by the Los Angeles Times late on Monday, the Office of Spill Prevention and Response, a division of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, had reports of a forming oil slick that Friday night, but due to the darkness of the night, neither California nor Federal workers could get out there to confirm until Saturday morning. The Coast Guard did confirm by Saturday afternoon, with Amplify Energy, the owners of the platform, shutting down production later that day.
Throughout Sunday and Monday, oil began coming ashore on Huntington Beach, with several other local cities also adding restrictions due to spill concerns. Several events, such as the Pacific Airshow, were also cancelled due to the worsening conditions. In total, officials estimate that around 3,000 barrels or 126,000 gallons, of post-production crude oil seeped out, with cleanup likely to take weeks and possibly months along a large swath of Northern Orange County beaches.
This led to Governor Newsom declaring a state of emergency on Monday, adding that the spill showed the dangers of being reliant on fossil fuels in California.
“The state is moving to cut red tape and mobilize all available resources to protect public health and the environment,” said Governor Newsom on Monday. “As California continues to lead the nation in phasing out fossil fuels and combating the climate crisis, this incident serves as a reminder of the enormous cost fossil fuels have on our communities and the environment.”
Other lawmakers, such as Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Rolling Hills Estates), called for a more drastic measure of shutting down all offshore production on Tuesday, showing the deepening divide politically over the drilling issue that the spill has caused.
We need to shut down all offshore oil drilling to protect California’s beautiful coast.
— Asm. Al Muratsuchi (@AsmMuratsuchi) October 5, 2021
Even with spill, production expected to continue for quite some time
Many utility experts have said that, even with the oil spill and state of emergency being declared, oil production would likely still continue in the area in the near future.
“Huntington Beach has had a long history of oil production,” said Ed H. Stevens, an Orange County oil executive whose family has been involved in oil production in California for nearly a century. “My family moved out here in the 1920’s when the big California boom was on. It can be shocking now to see, but Huntington Beach was once lined with oil wells and derricks as far as the eye could see, and that spills were a regular things. Drive along the PCH and you’ll still see beach names associated with oil or petroleum.”
“Things have improved drastically since then, but, even as California is going away from oil, it is still a huge factor here. And the thing is, it will still be needed even with cars needing it or it being used for energy. Aviation fuel, kerosene, plastics, the list goes on of things that can’t be made without it that have no present alternative.”
“Companies should be held accountable and we need to do everything to stop these leaks. But it all comes down to is that people still need oil, they don’t want to pay more for gas, so production will continue where there is still oil to be found. The platforms wouldn’t still be operating if there wasn’t demand, and an oil spill is one of those risks taken to help keep oil flowing in. It’s not a black and white issue. It’s simply a need.”
Cleanup on the affected Orange County beaches are expected to continue on throughout the month, with a cause of the spill likely to be announced soon.