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Worst California oil spill in 27 years may be from an anchor

Cleanup may take weeks. 
Image: Ariana Drehsler/Bloomberg

The owner of a pipeline at the heart of California’s worst oil spill in almost 30 years is investigating the disaster site with a remotely controlled device and local authorities warned the cleanup may take weeks.

Amplify Energy Corp. is getting close to “a source and a cause” of the incident, which may have been caused by a ship’s anchor, Chief Executive Officer Martyn Willsher said at a press conference Monday. The spill that began on Saturday dumped about 3 000 barrels (126 000 gallons) of crude into the Pacific Ocean near the seaside community of Huntington Beach, which hosted the US Open of Surfing last week.

That’s the Golden State’s largest such disaster since a 1994 earthquake split open a pipeline and poured about 4 500 barrels into the sea, according to a database compiled by the non-profit Public Media Group of Southern California. Amplify tumbled as much as 53% on Monday. Shares pared some of the losses after the press conference, triggering a temporary trading halt.

The spill comes at a time when regulatory skepticism of the oil industry’s environmental practices already was sky high. Last week, the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission voted to block an Exxon Mobil Corp. proposal to transport crude by tanker truck and restart three offshore platforms in the area.

The disaster should embolden Congressional Democrats to pass legislation that would protect places like Southern California from such incidents, said Diane Hoskins, a campaign director at ocean-conservation group Oceana.

“All available actions are being taken to ensure the safety of the public and response personnel, to control the source and recover spilled materials to maximize the protection of environmentally sensitive areas and minimize impact to maritime commerce,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during a media briefing.

Recovery efforts

Psaki estimated that 3 150 barrels of oil had been recovered from he ocean so far. That’s equivalent to about 2.5% of the spill.

A wide swath of beach and ocean remained closed and more than 2 000 feet of floating barriers have been deployed to help contain the spilled crude, Huntington Beach city leaders said in a statement.

Willsher said the company has sufficient insurance and other resources to handle the cost of the incident.

In June, the company’s loan under the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program was forgiven in full. At the end of that month, Amplify had net debt of about $216 million.

© 2021 Bloomberg

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