Plains All American Oil Spill: The Latest

On May 19th the biodiversity of the Gaviota Coast fell victim to the ill-effects of the oil industry. While LoaTree responds to the calls of concerned residents and helps coordinate a broad based community response, here is the most up to date information regarding Plains All American’s #RefugioOilSpill that we could find.

The Spill

Since Tuesday, local, state and federal agencies have been responding to the tragic oil spill caused from the burst of a pipeline along the Gaviota Coastline in Southern California. The United States Coast Guard, the US Environmental Protection Agency, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Office of Spill Prevention and the Santa Barbara Office of Emergency Management have all joined in the effort to clean up the oil and attend to affected wildlife.

The total amount of oil released from the Plains All American Oil pipeline is still under investigation, however it is estimated that up to 2,500 barrels (105,000 gallons) of crude oil was spilled. Approximately 500 barrels (21,000 gallons) of this is likely to have spilled into the ocean, entering  from the storm drain at Refugio State Beach. The spill was confirmed by a Plains employee at 1:30pm.Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 2.20.43 PM

The All American Pipeline

The spill originated from Line 901, the Las Flores to Gaviota pipeline. The pipeline was shut down at approximately 11:30 AM when a control room employee noticed some abnormalities in the line. The cause of the spill cannot be determined until it is possible to excavate the pipeline. This specific line holds a capacity of 150,000 barrels (6,300,000 gallons) of crude oil daily, operating at 1,200 barrels/hour (50,400 gallons/hour).

The oil was flowing from an aboveground storage tank facility in Las Flores to refineries throughout Southern California.

All American Pipeline constructed Line 901 in 1987. There was a major internal inspection of the pipeline in 2012, which was normal. Another inspection was performed a few weeks ago, but the results are not yet available. Comprehensive internal inspections typically occur on a five-year schedule by industry standards.

Investigations of the pipeline and the cause of its failure are underway through the review of operating history and Control Center Data.

oil spill

Response and Safety

As of 9am today, May 22, recovery efforts have collected approximately 145 barrels (6,090 gallons) of oil using vacuum trucks, skimmer boats and other resources.

The safety of the first responders and prevention of oil migration to the shoreline is the priority of the cleanup effort. Every step taken is to ensure minimal impact to the unique habitats of this precious coastline. Despite the smell of petroleum in the air, there is little immediate threat to public safety at this time, and current reports show no harmful contaminants in the air. Air quality levels will continue to be monitored in the impacted areas.

It is too early in the response effort to estimate the ultimate impacts to the environment and local wildlife, as well associated cleanup costs, but the current focus is to urgently and thoroughly clean up the spill and relieve any damage to the affected areas. The Plains oil company will follow established procedures for reimbursement.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 2.39.28 PMWhat Can You Do?

Stand in the Sand is organizing a community rally on Sunday, May 31st. Details have yet to be determined, but they are encouraging interested community members to save the date and register at for event updates. Stand in the Sand is a project of LoaTree. Follow Stand in the Sand and LoaTree‘s Facebook pages for daily updates.

Top feature image by David McNew/Getty Images. Sources above gleaned from recent news reports as well as UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science and Management alumni, Marisa Villareal.

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