An estimated 21,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into ocean waters near Refugio State Beach, off Santa Barbara. Oil flowed into the ocean in an area situated in between two state marine conservation areas that contain diverse ecological resources and important historical significance.

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California oil spill

The source of the spill is an underground pipeline owned by Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline, and the cause of the spill has not yet been confirmed. Responders are on the scene working to recover the oil. Yesterday’s unfortunate incident serves as a reminder of the risks associated with oil exploration, production, and transportation as evidenced by numerous accidents including the 1969 spill off the coast of Santa Barbara in which tens of thousands of barrels of oil contaminated ocean waters and wildlife.

Other infamous oil spill incidents include: the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, the Cosco Busan accident in San Francisco Bay, the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and many others that have greatly impacted marine wildlife, the economy, and even taken human lives. While the sources of these spills are very different, in every case, it was clearly demonstrated that there is no good way to clean up an oil spill in the ocean.

In response to the oil spill, Susan Murray, Oceana’s Deputy Vice President, Pacific issued the following statement:

“Yesterday’s oil spill near Refugio Beach, which sent thousands of gallons of crude oil into the beautiful ocean waters off Santa Barbara, is yet another clear reminder that oil and water don’t mix. This latest incident underscores that accidents can and do happen in all phases of oil extraction; and once oil is spilled into the marine environment, there is no good way to clean it up. Booms and skimmers only work in calm waters with concentrated oil, dispersants add toxins to the marine ecosystem, and burning fills the air with black plumes of toxic smoke. Simply put, we cannot clean up oil spills–even in easily accessible areas. We cannot possibly respond appropriately to spills in some of the most remote and ecologically sensitive areas on the planet, like the Arctic Ocean; and a major spill would be devastating in the Atlantic Ocean, where tourism and fishery economies are inextricably linked to healthy oceans. Each accident like this serves as a stark reminder of the risks of oil and gas activities on the marine environment.”

Source: Oceana, May 20, 2015