- The spill left a sheen over miles of ocean along the shoreline at Huntington Beach.
- Oil will continuing washing up for days, officials warned.
- More than 125,000 gallons of oil spilled from a pipeline about four miles offshore.
LOS ANGELES – Cleanup crews along Southern California’s coast deployed skimmers and attempted to corral oil-slicked ocean waters in booms on Monday while wildlife experts scrambled to protect birds and fish from an enormous oil spill that threatened to close beaches for months.
The spill left a sheen over miles of ocean and gobs of thick black oil along the shoreline at Huntington Beach, about 30 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. The disaster also drew an outcry from environmental groups demanding an end to offshore drilling.
Oil will continuing washing up for days, officials warned. The smell of it permeated the area.
“You get the taste in the mouth just from the vapors in the air,” Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said. Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said the spill resulted in “substantial ecological impacts” for the beach and wetlands.
More than 125,000 gallons of oil spilled from a pipeline about four miles offshore, authorities said. Carr said the spill was affecting about six miles of shoreline and that her city’s beaches could be closed for months.
Foley said dead birds and fish were washing up on the shore and that oil had “infiltrated the entirety” of some wetlands.
Monica Embrey, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, said the spill was the latest reason to transition away from oil drilling.
“How many of these oil disasters do we have to witness before our elected leaders understand that there is no safe way to drill or transport dirty fossil fuels?” Embrey said. “This spill is yet another reminder that we can have healthy and safe communities, thriving coastal economies and a stable climate – or we can continue drilling for oil. We can’t have both.”
Jacqueline Savitz, chief policy officer at Oceana, also said it’s time to end offshore drilling.
“This is just the latest tragedy of the oil industry,” she said. “The reality of our reliance on oil and gas is on full display here. This is the legacy of the fossil fuel age.”
Environment California’s State Director Laura Deehan called the spill a “stark and dark reminder” of the dangers in an area that is home to great blue herons, pelicans and endangered California least terns as well as sea turtles and fish.
“This spill threatens all of them,” Deehan said. “This ecological disaster underscores the urgent need for Gov. (Gavin) Newsom to accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels to a 100% renewable energy-powered economy.”
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Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery told CNN he was coming back from Catalina Island on a boat with his family on Saturday when he heard “chatter” on the marine radio about oil in the water. Soon Avery came upon a patch of oil himself.
“There was some dolphin on our bow, and it was beautiful,” Avery said. “We went into this patch of oil that was, you know, very extensive and pretty thick. And it was shocking.”
The town’s beach and harbor remained open; boaters were asked to avoid traversing the oil spill because it might cling to boats that could then bring oil into the harbor. Beachgoers were warned to avoid contact with ocean water and oiled areas of the sand. The nearby town of Laguna closed its beaches.
The Coast Guard was leading a “unified command” of federal, state and local agencies investigating and cleaning up the leak. One oiled duck has been collected and was receiving veterinary care and “other reports of oiled wildlife are being investigated,” the agency said early in the cleanup effort.
The Oiled Wildlife Care Network was on the scene, and the public was asked to report – but not attempt to capture – oiled animals.
Carr said the Beta Offshore, a California subsidiary of Houston-based Amplify Energy Corporation, was responsible for the spill. On its website, Beta Offshore says it is one of the largest oil producers in Southern California, operating three offshore platforms 12 miles south of Long Beach.
Amplify Energy Corporation was aiding in the cleanup effort, and Carr said authorities would ensure that the company “does everything possible to rectify this environmental catastrophe.”
Martyn Willsher, CEO of Amplify Energy, issued a statement Monday saying the company has sent a remotely operated vehicle to investigate and attempt to confirm source of the release. All the company’s production and pipeline operations at the Beta Field have been shut down “as a precaution,” the statement said.
“Amplify Energy is a fully engaged member of and working cooperatively with the unified command,” it said. The company’s stock price had fallen more than 40% as of noon Monday.
Bacon reported from Arlington, Va. Contributing: The Associated Press