Orange County Oil Spill: Texas company gets permission to repair a ruptured underwater pipeline off the OC coast

HUNTINGTON BEACH, California– A Texas oil company has been granted permission to repair an underwater pipeline that ruptured off the coast of Southern California a year ago, spilling tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil and forcing beaches and fisheries to close.

The US Army Corps of Engineers granted Amplify Energy Corp. on Friday, paving the way for the rebuilding of the aging pipeline, which ruptured months after it appeared to have weakened when it was caught by the anchors of ships adrift in a storm.

The October 1, 2021 rupture spilled about 25,000 gallons (94,600 liters) of oil into the Pacific Ocean, shutting down miles of beaches for a week, shutting down fisheries for months and blanketing birds and wetlands in oil.

The permit to rebuild the pipe that runs from an oil rig off Huntington Beach to tanks in Long Beach comes less than a month after Amplify pleaded guilty to charges of negligent oil spillage. The Houston-based company and two subsidiaries also agreed not to challenge the water pollution and bird killing in state courts.

Amplify said the permit will allow it to remove the damaged pipe segments from the seabed and replace them.

It was estimated that work would take up to a month after a barge was installed. If it passes a series of safety tests after the repair, the company expects to be operational in the first quarter of 2023.

Environmentalists who are calling for the pipeline to be closed have criticized the permit and called again for offshore oil production to end.

ALSO READ | A massive oil spill on the OC coast is reportedly killing wildlife and forcing the cancellation of the Pacific Airshow

“The Biden administration just raised the risk of another ugly oil spill on the beautiful California coast,” said Brady Bradshaw of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Unfortunately, people who live near offshore drilling infrastructure are all too familiar with this abusive drill-spill-repeat cycle.”

On Wednesday, the environmental group sued the federal government for allowing the platform on which the pipeline originated to operate on outdated plans that suggested the platform should have been shut down more than a decade ago. The lawsuit also states that despite the spill, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management failed to review and require plan revisions.

Amplify claimed that the spill would not have happened unless two vessels dropped their anchors over the pipeline and damaged it during a storm in January 2021. It said it was only informed of the anchor’s snagging after the burial.

Although the extent of the spill was not as bad as initially feared, US prosecutors said the company would have been able to shut down the damaged line much sooner if it had recognized the severity of a series of leak detection alerts over a 13-hour period .

The first alarm sounded in the late afternoon of October 1, 2021, but workers misinterpreted the cause, according to the federal grievance agreement.

As the alarm went off throughout the night, workers shut down the pipeline to examine it, then restarted it after deciding the alarms were false. That spat more oil.

It was only after dawn that a boat identified the spill and the line was shut down.

As part of a federal court settlement to pay a $7 million fine and nearly $6 million in expenses incurred by agencies like the U.S. Coast Guard, the company and its subsidiaries have agreed to install a new leak detection system and employees train to detect and respond to potential leaks.

The company agreed not to contest six state misdemeanor allegations and to pay $4.9 million in penalties and fines as part of a settlement.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Orange County Oil Spill: Texas company gets permission to repair a ruptured underwater pipeline off the OC coast

Laura Coffey

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