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.
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.
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.
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