Santa Barbara Pipeline Spill: Time for Tough Rules

  • by: Aaron Viles
  • recipient: Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Transportation; Timothy Butters, Acting Administrator, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)

The Santa Barbara pipeline spill is a tragedy, blanketing the once-pristine beaches of Refugio State Park with thick, black oil, just days before the beginning of beach season.

This spill is showing once more how slow and inadequate cleanup methods are, and how the pipeline industry is incapable of quickly responding to the failure of their own infrastructure. The pipeline company was unaware of the rupture until they were called, and the pipeline wasn't shut down until 3 hours after the oil was identified, spilling an estimated 21,000 gallons into the Pacific, and stretching 9 miles down the coast.

The faulty pipeline is owned by Plains All American, a Houston-based pipeline operator, and moves oil produced offshore by Exxon Mobil. Just over a year ago a Plains pipeline in Los Angeles ruptured and sent 19,000 gallons of oil through the streets of Atwater Village.

Even though this pipeline was equipped with some of the newest monitoring and shutoff technology, research shows pipeline leak detection fails 19 times out of 20. Despite this fact, pipeline companies convince local officials that their infrastructure is safe and dependable. Santa Barbara County's head of energy, Kevin Drude, was surprised by the spill and quoted in local media discussing Plains technology: "It's able to pick up pinhole leaks." Clearly, it can't.

In the past 20 years, pipelines have caused over 5,600 major accidents, costing nearly $7 billion and killing an average of 18 people a year.

It's past time for tough new rules to protect people and the environment. Sign the petition to the Department of Transportation, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) today, and tell them to speed the development of the new pipeline safety regulations they've been considering.

The Santa Barbara Plains pipeline spill shows how necessary new rules are for pipeline safety. Please speed the development of the regulations you've been considering, and make sure our nation's oil and hazardous materials infrastructure is as safe as possible.

Update #15 years ago
UPDATE: Pipeline that led to Santa Barbara spill was badly corroded. It's time for tough new pipeline rules. Please share the petition and help build pressure for safer communities. Click here for twitter. Click here for Facebook.
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