Worker assesses oil damage

California Oil Spill: Who is to Blame?

An Ecology Florida Feature

by Monica Starr

Monica Starr is an intern with Ecology Florida, serving as the Public Communications Facilitator for Ecology Florida News. Monica is a graduate student at the University of South Florida studying Global Sustainability.

October 2021

At the beginning of the month, thousands of gallons of oil was discovered to have leaked into the water off the Southern California coast. According to authorities, a massive cargo ship anchor might have dragged and punctured an oil pipeline, but the timeline of events is blurry. The result from this damaged pipeline is over 25,000 gallons of crude oil in the Pacific Ocean. There has been a lot of back and forth about who is to blame for this situation and more importantly, who is responsible for now cleaning up the mess.?

More recently, a federal investigation was conducted in order to determine the cause of this damaging spill. It was officially reported that the U.S. Coastguard investigators believe that months prior to this spill, a cargo ship dragged an anchor across the underwater pipeline. This damaged the pipeline at the time, but did not break the line. Investigators explain that the October leak could be due to a more recent impact on that already damaged pipeline.?

The U.S. Coastguard investigation team is still looking at different vessels and potential scenarios for what happened earlier this month. The environmental and economic impacts of an oil spill of this magnitude could have lasting impacts for years to come. This oil spill has already killed birds, fish and mammals in the Pacific and will continue to impact these marine ecosystems.?

Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr explained, ?In a year that has been filled with incredibly challenging issues, this oil spill constitutes one of the most devastating situations that our community has dealt with in decades?. [2]?

The surrounding beaches and wetlands in this area have been closed in order to clean up the area as quickly as possible with minimal impact to the community. When situations like this happen, the debate over offshore drilling in federal waters is always discussed. This drilling industry in the Pacific consists of hundreds of miles of pipelines that have been there for decades. This investigation regarding who caused the spill could potentially lead to criminal penalties, but as of right now, it is still under investigation. Unfortunately, this is a very complex issue that could continue for months to come. Now, California and the areas directly impacted are focused on cleaning up the beaches and wildlife to minimize impact as much as possible.?

There have been numerous large-scale oil spills that various states have had to deal with over our history. The positives that can come from a horrible spill like this include a reignited debate over the oil industry and its environmental impacts. When a situation like this happens, who is to blame? Who should be responsible for cleaning this mess up? The oil company? The state? All of these questions have answers in very grey areas and it is extremely important moving forward to create a better system for regulating this industry. The environmental and economic impacts of this type of accident are too large to ignore.?




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