Oil Spill in Santa Barbara, Site of 1969 Disaster

1969 Santa Barbara oil spill (Associated Press)
Associated Press, 1969

21,000 gallons of crude oil—- the equivalent of 500 barrels –poured onto the Santa Barbara County coast on Tuesday when an 11-mile-long underground pipe owned by Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline ruptured. The leak and its cause are under investigation.

The spill site is in the same vicinity as the fateful 1969 oil spill, which left thousands of birds and hundreds of dolphins and sea lions dead as 4.2 million gallons of crude poured for a week-and-a-half into the Pacific Ocean. The spill helped propel the environmental movement, which was still in its infancy at the time. The spill was the worst in American history.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Coast Guard described Tuesday’s spill as “medium” in size.

Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) wasted no time attempting to make the spill political.

“This incident is yet another stark reminder of the serious risks to our environment and economy that come from drilling for oil,” she reportedly said, expressing her deep disappointment with the situation.

Democrats and the left have long been opponents of oil drilling measures such as fracking, despite Governor Jerry Brown’s support the process. Brown has reportedly been “monitoring the situation with great concern,” according to spokesman Evan Westrup.

The leak was reportedly first discovered by a woman around noon on Tuesday, and the U.S. Coast Guard was able to stop it three hours later. The Coast Guard was working with 60-70 employees from Plains All American Pipeline to clean up the crude mess on the coastline and ocean on Wednesday.

The pipeline was built in 1991, according to a pipeline official who spoke with the Times. It was designed to carry approximately 150,000 barrels of oil per day.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz


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