Environmental Catastrophe: What do we Know About the Oil Spill in California?

What is the environmental impact of this oil spill in California? What have the authorities said? Here we tell you.

Oil spill in California

The hydrocarbon leak originated in a pipeline that is being exploited by Amplify Energy through the company Beta Offshore. Photo: EPA

LatinAmerican Post | Brandon Martínez Salazar

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Leer en español: Catástrofe Ambiental: ¿Qué se sabe del derrame de petróleo en California?

On Monday, October 5, around 15 miles of the beaches on the southern coast of California were completely closed after 570,000 liters of oil spilled in Huntington Beach and produced a devastating environmental panorama.

According to official information, the hydrocarbon leak originated from a pipeline that is being exploited by Amplify Energy through the company Beta Offshore. Currently, the state of California does not grant permits to do this type of drilling since there is a risk of spills like those that occurred last week. However, state jurisdiction only extends up to three nautical miles and, therefore, beyond that distance, oil companies operate under permits directly from the United States federal government.

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Likewise, residents and ecological organizations have denounced that the companies that exploit these natural resources are very old and previously there have been other types of oil spills in the area, where the environment, tourists and fishermen from Huntington, Newport and Laguna Beach, located in Orange County, south of Los Angeles are affected.

How does this oil spill affect the environment?

It is known from its history that an oil spill in the sea can be catastrophic for the organisms that live there. When a certain amount of oil is poured, the immediate impact is the appearance of a layer on the surface that prevents the entry of light, leaving as a consequence (in the long term) damage to the reproduction and feeding of living beings in the maritime ecosystem.

What happened in Los Angeles is worrying and the beach closures will most likely extend for weeks or even months. Recently a large number of dead fish and birds have been reported, but it is not yet entirely clear what the magnitude of the problem may be.

On the other hand, the San Diego authorities have reported the presence of tar balls on some of its beaches. However, the county supervisor says that the amount is unusual to determine that it is the result of the oil spill that occurred last week and that, at the moment, there is also no evidence of stains in nearby waters, so this does not pose any danger to the health of the inhabitants.

What are the authorities doing?

Apart from the indefinite closure of some beaches, the authorities are still searching for the origin of the spill. Apparently, it could be the anchor of a ship that triggered the spill after colliding with the pipeline of the Elly offshore platform.

The authorities, with great uncertainty, alerted the media that they are dealing with the worst ecological disaster in the last three decades. "We are going to be impacted by this oil spill for generations," said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer.

On the other hand, the environmental group Sierra Club, one of the oldest and most important in North America, affirms that the United States must initiate a transition of oil exploitation "towards a healthier, safer, and cleaner energy future", because for the director of the organization, Mónica Embrey, there is no safe way to extract and transport fossil fuels .

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