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Ellen and Elly offshore oil platforms nearby Long Beach (Photo: Bureau of Safety and Environmental/Public Domain)

State Officials Announce Cleanup of Huntington Beach Oil Spill Has Ended

Focus of the pipeline now turns to environmental aspects, repair work

By Evan Symon, December 31, 2021 2:11 am

State officials announced Wednesday that the cleanup of the Huntington Beach oil spill has ended, just under three months from which it first started.

The spill, first detected on October 1st, was caused by a 13-inch split in the pipeline. Officials believe that the pipeline that sprung the leak had likely been dragged for over 100 feet earlier this year by a container ship with its anchor down. The pipeline, which connects the Elly drilling platform off the coast to the Long Beach Harbor, then finally broke open, sending 3,000 barrels, or, 126,000 gallons, of post production crude oil into the ocean, becoming larger than other recent oil spills in California, such as the Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara County in 2015.

The spill threatened area beaches for a week, with Governor Gavin Newsom declaring the spill a State of Emergency due to the ecological effects, on October 5th. While beaches reopened quickly, with most only staying closed around a week, the economic losses had been staggering, with federal disaster assistance for businesses beginning to come in in late October.

While cleanup efforts coordinated by the U.S. Coast Guard, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), and Orange and San Diego Counties continued, several environmental groups brought forth lawsuits against the federal government over not revising platform plans since the early 1980’s. At the same time, the federal government indicted Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp., and it’s two subsidiaries, Beta Operating Co. and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Co., over their role in the spill.

Political maneuvering, such as using the incident to speed up fossil fuel replacement in California, as well as it already being cited by local candidates for the 2022 races, means that the spill will continue to be influential for at the least the next several years.

However, for both locals and those involved in the cleanup, it marks the end of a difficult three months that caused some environmental damage and significant economic distress to Huntington Beach and other surrounding communities.

“After sustained cleanup operations for the Southern California oil spill, affected shoreline segments have been returned to their original condition,” announced officials on Wednesday.

Huntington oil spill cleanup

Local officials also gave a sense of relief over the cleanup being finished on Wednesday but noted that there is still work needed to be done, especially on the environmental aspects of the spill.

“It’s great to have the cleanup component of this behind us, but there is still much work to be done,” said Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley on Wednesday. “The first thing that we’ve learned is that this aging infrastructure is decomposing and is not being well-maintained, and that has to be addressed immediately. The second most important lesson is that there is a galvanization of community support to decommission these rigs, so long as we are able to transfer those ‘dirty energy’ jobs to ‘clean energy’ jobs and take care of the workers.

“There was, I think, a dramatic understanding by those who might not have been so aligned with the environmentalists as to the impacts of offshore oil drilling. It’s impactful to the economy, impactful to the environment, to the coast—to our lives in general. I think all those factors combining together really hit people hard this time, more so than in the past.”

Earlier this month, Amplify Energy officials noted that the “unified command” of all the federal, state, and local agencies accelerated cleanup of the spill and was improving the area quickly.

“This response was a true team effort—one that included the commitment and dedication of federal, state and local agencies along with our response team,” said the company in a press release. “We are grateful for their work and would like to thank all the members of the Unified Command for their professionalism and collaboration over the past three months.”

Locals have noted that the economic situation, barring recent COVID-19 spikes, has improved vastly as the spill has been completely cleaned up.

“It’s not a worry anymore,” Lorraine Bishop, a local art business owner in Huntington Beach, said to the Globe on Thursday. “Honestly, everyone got to it fast, and things quickly came back. The word that it’s complete though should convince the last naysayers. Honestly, rainy weather and the coronavirus are the more pressing concerns for businesses now, at least here.”

As of Thursday, the pipeline remains shut down as safety workers continue to work on the pipeline.

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7 thoughts on “State Officials Announce Cleanup of Huntington Beach Oil Spill Has Ended

  1. Despite the trend (since the Chernobyl incident and Fukushima tsunami) to shut down the older breeder-type reactors, nuclear is still seen as a positive source of clean energy (58% strongly or somewhat approve in this opinion poll – 702 responses as of 12/31/2021).
    “Germany is shutting down three of its six remaining nuclear power plants as it shifts to renewable energy sources. In general, to what extent do you approve or disapprove of the use of nuclear power worldwide?”
    Strongly approve 34%
    Somewhat approve 24%
    Somewhat disapprove 16%
    Strongly disapprove 20%
    Other / No opinion 5%

  2. Think you’re on to something, Raymond, there will be more nuclear plants, but on a smaller scale in more locations
    in our future. This was another in Newsom’s long line of gaffes (homeless camps, EDD fraud, crime wave)… create the problem, pay big bucks for clean-up.
    It could have been avoided by cancelling port virus mandates and suspending AB5 to get the ports cleared.

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