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Evidence suggests ship’s anchor snagged, pipeline dragged | Business and finance

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) – Evidence emerged on Tuesday that a ship’s anchor snagged and dragged an underwater pipeline that ruptured and spilled tens of thousands of gallons of oil Brut off Southern California, an accident the Coast Guard admitted it had not investigated for nearly 10 hours after the first call arrived about a possible leak.

The pipe was split and a section nearly a mile long was apparently pulled along the ocean floor, possibly by “an anchor which caught the pipeline causing a partial tear,” said federal transportation investigators.

“The pipeline has basically been pulled like a bowstring,” said Martyn Willsher, CEO of Amplify Energy Corp., which operates the pipeline. “At its widest point, it is 105 feet (32 meters) from where it was.”

Huge freighters regularly cross the pipeline as they make their way to the massive Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex. They are given the coordinates of where they should anchor until unloading.

Even when anchored, freighters move continuously due to the changing winds and tides. If a ship fails to properly anchor its anchor to the ocean floor, these forces of nature come into play and can push the ship and drag the anchor along the bottom, potentially catching anything in its path, a said Steven Browne, professor of shipping. at the Maritime Academy at California State University.

Anchors on large ships can weigh 10 tons or more and are attached to hundreds of feet of thick steel chains. “Whatever the anchor gets fouled on will come with the ship,” Browne said.

The spill sent up to 126,000 gallons (572,807 liters) of heavy crude into the ocean off Huntington Beach. It then spilled over miles of beaches and a protected swamp.

The beaches could remain closed for weeks or more, a big blow to the local economy. Coastal fishing in the area is closed to commercial and recreational fishing. On land, the animal rescuers were pleasantly surprised to find a few birds covered in oil.

The time of the spill was still unclear on Tuesday and there was no indication whether investigators suspected a particular vessel was involved.

Democratic MK Katie Porter, a Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee’s Oversight and Investigation subcommittee, said the panel will investigate the incident.

“We’re going to make sure we have answers as to how this happened and make sure we hold the responsible party accountable,” said Porter, who represents a district a few miles inland from the country. spill area.

Coast Guard officials defended their decision to wait until sunrise on Saturday to investigate a possible spill first reported by a commercial vessel at 8:22 p.m. Friday near a cluster of boats anchored off Huntington Beach .

This observation was supported by a report to the National Response Center, a dangerous spill hotline operated by the Coast Guard, at 2:06 a.m. Saturday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which said satellite images showed the strong probability of an oil spill.

Residents at nearby Newport Beach had also complained about a strong smell of petroleum on Friday night, and police have issued a public advisory about it.

The Coast Guard was alerted to a shard in the water by a “good samaritan,” but lacked sufficient corroborating evidence and was hampered by the darkness and lack of technology to search for the spill, said Coast Guard Rear Admiral Brian Penoyer to The Associated Press.

He said the Coast Guard aired a program to the many cargo ships and tankers anchored off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as oil rigs, seeking more information but receiving no response. .

Coast Guard Captain Rebecca Ore then disputed this account. She said the coast guard had not released any information to ships or oil rigs, and Penoyer later said he needed to verify his facts.

Penoyer said it was quite common to get reports of oil reflections in a large seaport.

“Looking back it seems obvious, but they didn’t know it at the time,” Penoyer said.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said the pipeline was closed at 6:01 a.m. on Saturday.

Willsher, however, said the company was not aware of the spill until it saw a shard in the water at 8:09 a.m.

The pipeline company did not report the spill until 8:55 a.m., according to a state report, or 9:07 a.m., according to the PHMSA. At that time, the Coast Guard had been on the water for a few hours and discovered the spill as Amplify reported.

The company’s spill response plan provides for immediate notification of a spill. Criminal charges have been laid in the past when a company took too long to notify federal and state authorities of a spill.

Speaking at a press conference, Governor Gavin Newsom reiterated his calls for the United States to move beyond oil. Newsom signed a decree last year banning the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035.

“It is time, once and for all, to get over the fact that this must be part of our future. It’s part of our past, ”he said from Bolsa Chica State Beach, where he was joined by local, state and federal officials to discuss the spill.

During a two-hour boat trip off the coast of Huntington Beach, an AP video journalist saw no visible oil. Pelicans and other seabirds floated on calm waters and four dolphins swam beside the boat.

Dozens of freighters have been seen anchored offshore, sharing space with around half a dozen oil rigs. Dozens of workers in white suits dotted the shore clearing the deposited oil.

The line break occurred about 5 miles offshore at a depth of about 98 feet (30 meters), investigators said. These findings were included in an order from the Department of Transportation that prevented the company from restarting the pipeline without extensive inspections and testing.

The order did not identify the source of the investigators’ information, and agency officials did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

Associated Press reporters Michael Blood and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles, Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, Michael Biesecker in Washington, and Eugene Garcia and Amy Taxin in Huntington Beach, California, contributed to this report.

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