California oil spill firm questioned over past leaks

GMT 06:04 2015 Friday ,22 May

Arab Today, arab today California oil spill firm questioned over past leaks

Oil slick at Refugio State Beach in Goleta
Los Angeles - AFP

The oil company behind a crude spill on the California coast vowed Thursday to do the "right thing" to clear up the mess, even as reports emerged of past leaks involving its pipelines.

Plains All American Pipeline made the pledge as it said nearly 8,000 gallons of oil had been scooped up, out of some 21,000 gallons believed to have flooded into the ocean near Santa Barbara, northwest of Los Angeles.

Oil-covered pelicans, dead lobsters and other marine life have been recovered from the area, where a nine-mile (14-kilometer) long spill has closed two beaches normally crowded with tourists, officials said at a daily briefing.

"We will remain committed to doing the right thing," company executive Patrick Hodgins told reporters.

A total of up to 105,000 gallons is believed to have secreted from a ruptured pipe on land, before leaking through a culvert onto the sea front. About a fifth of that volume is estimated to have spilled into the ocean.

Since the spill, media reports have highlighted past accidents involving the Texas-based company.

The LA Times cited federal records showing that Plains' rate of incidents per mile of pipe is more than three times the national average, with only four companies reporting more infractions than Plains Pipeline.

Incidents involving the company caused more than $23 million in property damage and caused more than 688,000 gallons of hazardous liquid to leak since 2006, according to the newspaper.

But in Santa Barbara Thursday, the company executive stressed that since 2007 "we have spent over $1.3 billion to maintain, repair and enhance the integrity of our assets."

"Safety is not just a priority, it's actually a core value at Plains. Priorities can change, but values cannot," said Hodgins, adding that the company had built over 2,300 miles of new pipeline "without incident."

"Plains has... committed to acting as a good steward of this environment," Hodgins said.

"We are a member of this community... We are going to continue to be here," he added.

Santa Barbara was the scene of what was then the largest oil spill in US history, when in 1969 several million gallons of crude spewed into the ocean after an oil rig blowout.

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