Forty-six years after the historic Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969, lightning has struck again. On May 19, the Texas based Plains All American Pipeline suffered a rupture, spilling an estimated 105,000 gallons of crude into the waters near Refugio State Beach. Known as line 901, the structure moves crude from Las Flores to Gaviota, and then to refineries throughout southern California.
This newest assault on the environment has drawn fire from naturalists and legislators alike. The Los Angeles Times reported on May 30 that three Senators- Barbara Boxer (DCA), Diane Fienstein (D-Calif.), and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) were questioning if Plains All American Pipeline had acted quickly enough in both detecting and reporting the spill. They have also requested data regarding the company’s oil spill response plans, among other things. According to a recent airing of CNN, the company has had 175 Federal safety and maintenance violations since 2006, among the worst violators listed by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration.
The ruptured 24 inch pipe carried as many as 1300 barrels of oil an hour and the spill has hurt the area’s $ 1.2 billion tourism industry. Estimating the total clean-up time, U.S. Coast Guard Captain Jennifer Williams responded,” It could take months.. Damage is already been done to marine life — as of May 25, four sea lions and one elephant seal have succumbed to the oil, as well as several pelicans, a common dolphin, and even lobsters.
This tragic event is something South Carolina must seriously consider. As of January of this year, a proposal was forwarded to open up the Atlantic coast to oil and gas drilling, from Virginia to Georgia. One of our own state’s senators, Lindsey Graham (R), who has recently thrown his hat in the ring to run for president in the next election, has spoken in favor of such measures.
The next spill could be coming our way. Please keep this most recent disaster, as well as Exxon-Valdez, and BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in mind, and loudly speak out against any attempt to endanger South Carolina’s precious coastline.
The writer lives in Conway.