PHSMA and California Oil Spill: Pipeline Company One of Worst Offenders in U.S.

On May 19, 2015, a pipeline located on the California coastline ruptured, spilling more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil. At least 21,000 gallons of the of the crude were dumped into the Pacific Ocean, creating a nine mile oil slick before the pipeline, which is owned by Plains All American Pipeline, was finally shut off – three hours after the rupture occurred.

According to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHSMA), Plains All American Pipeline is one of the worst offenders for safety and maintenance infractions. In less than a decade, the company has been cited for 175 safety and maintenance violations, including being responsible for at least 10 other oil spills in four other states.

 

A man tries to rescue an oil soaked bird (Lara Cooper/Noozhawk.com via Reuters)

A man tries to rescue an oil soaked bird (Lara Cooper/Noozhawk.com via Reuters)

 

Plains All American operates almost 18,000 miles of pipeline through several states. The company’s rate of incidents per mile is more than three times the national average of other pipeline operators, according to a recent independent analysis. Of the more than 1,700 pipeline companies that operated in the U.S., only four other companies have more reported violations than Plains All American.

The company has paid over $115,000 in civil penalties for violations which include failing to maintain adequate firefighting gear and relying on local volunteer fire departments. They have also been cited for failing to install equipment to prevent pipe corrosion, failing to prove it had completed repairs recommended by inspectors and failing to keep records showing inspections of breakout tanks used to ease pressure surges in pipelines.

 

Staff and volunteers work to clean oil off a brown pelican at the International Bird Rescue center in San Pedro, Los Angeles, California. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Staff and volunteers work to clean oil off a brown pelican at the International Bird Rescue center in San Pedro, Los Angeles, California. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

 

The Santa Barbara oil spill area has been declared a state of emergency, with both Refugio State Beach and El Capitan State Beach closed. More than 850 workers have been attempting to clean the damage that has been done to the area. As of today, more than 280 dead animals have been recovered, including 180 birds and 100 marine mammals. So far, workers have recovered 14,267 gallons of oily water and 960 cubic yards of oily sand. The cost to date is at least $65 million, with more months of clean-up recovery expected.

 

 A crew cleans oil from the beach at Refugio State Beach on May 20, 2015 (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

A crew cleans oil from the beach at Refugio State Beach on May 20, 2015 (David McNew/Getty Images)

 

Emergency Film Group’s Oil Spill Response Series is a five-part training series that provides important health and safety information for clean-up workers. Created with the assistance of the US Coast Guard, this series examines all recognized clean-up technologies and emphasizes waste management techniques. It is used worldwide by the US Coast Guard and some 500 other organizations. It is ideal as a crash course to meet OSHA and USCG regulations.

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