Santa Barbara Oil Spill: What We Know So Far

Just days after a federal agency approved Shell’s plans to drill the Arctic for oil, California’s governor has declared a state of emergency following a Santa Barbara oil spill that spewed over 100,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean, covering Refugio State Beach. The cause of the oil spill is still under investigation.

The underground oil pipeline was carrying 1,300 barrels of crude per hour, running 700 barrels under its maximum capacity. At a press conference, Rick McMichael, a spokesperson for the organization responsible for the Santa Barbara oil spill, Plains All American Pipeline told reporters that “Line 901 was not operating at capacity before or during the release.”

According to, the company counts itself amongst the top violators of the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration. Over the past nine years, the oil company has reportedly clocked up 175 federal maintenance and safety violations and counts over 16,000 barrels’ worth of crude oil spilled into the ocean, culminating in $23 million worth of damage to property.

An effort to clean the beaches is already under way; five pelicans and a sea lion counting themselves amongst the saved victims of the spill. Authorities and Santa Barbara local volunteers are contributing to the effort.

The company’s senior director of safety insists the organization has been investing in improved safety measures for the past several years, and the 24-inch wide oil pipe was supposedly inspected back in 2012 without incident

The event is a smaller echo of the considerably larger 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that saw three million gallons of oil spread over 30 miles of coastline and was largely responsible for creating many key environmental legislations we have today.


Yahoo News reported on statements made by Natural Resources Defense Council, Joel Reynolds, who told the press, “What we see from this event is that the industry still poses enormous risks to an area we cannot afford to lose.”

Should oil companies with so many safety violations be allowed to continue operating? Let us know your thoughts on the Santa Barbara oil spill in the comments below

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