Massive Oil Spill starting in Huntington Beach and ending in Laguna Beach


©Ted Soqui/Greenpeace

Clean up of the Talbert Marsh wetlands. Workers hand-scoop oil off of the beach and place them into plastic bags.

Nicholas Difusco, Staff Writer

An oil spill starting on Saturday morning has spread from Huntington Beach to Laguna Beach. Boats in the surrounding area noticed the spill and alerted the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard was unaware of the incident for nearly 10 hours. Due to this inefficiency, the oil spill has spread over 8,320 acres. Part of those acres is protected marshlands and shipping lanes. The Coast Guard has shut down the Los Angeles-Long Beach shipping complex for cleanup. This has caused major delays in all shipments. 

The cause is still unknown but federal investigators say that the most likely reason for the spill is due to an anchor. The corporation that is in control of the pipeline is Amplify Energy and CEO, Martyn Wilshire’s response is the following; “The pipeline has essentially been pulled like a bowstring.” “At its widest point, it is 105 feet (32 meters) away from where it was.” The company has shut off all production until the pipeline has been fixed.

The spill has sent up 126,000 gallons (572,807 liters) of heavy crude oil into the ocean of Huntington Beach. The tide pushed the oil towards protected marshlands. A 25-acre paradise for marine wildlife and for thousands of birds. Officials reported Sunday that the marshland is protected by booms that will collect the oil. So far no more oil has reached the marshland but birds and fish have been washing up on shore covered in oil. Biologists don’t know the full impact that has been caused by the spill.

The marshland is not the only area that has been affected by the oil spill. Local businesses haven’t been receiving any new shipments nor any new customers due to the beaches being closed. Thick clumps of oil have been covering the shoreline. Police shut down the beaches on Tuesday to allow full cleanup of all beaches that have been affected. Local restaurants and shops have been deeply overwhelmed by Covid and now have to shut down due to a lack of customers. In addition to the loss of customers there has also been a cancellation with the Pacific Airshow. The event has been estimated to generate $68.1 million and $3.4 million in tourist revenue. This is a massive loss for all of the businesses in the area.

Failure to report an oil spill in rapid time by the company is a crime. This has led local, state, and federal investigators to further investigate why Amplify Energy didn’t report the oil spill. Director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Oceans program, Miyoko Sakashita, says, “This oil spill is a tragic reminder that offshore drilling is a devastating threat to our coast and its wildlife… “I’ve seen the aging oil platforms off Huntington Beach up close, and I know it’s past time to decommission these time bombs. Even after fines and criminal charges, the oil industry is still spilling and leaking into California’s coastal waters because these companies just aren’t capable of operating safely.” No charges have been filed by any law enforcement agency.

The future of Huntington Beach and the local community all depends on how long it will take to finish the cleanup of the beaches. “It’s a real tragedy for local businesses and fisheries. Favorite activities like diving and parks have all been closed. It’s all due to Covid because ships have been delayed at the Port of Long Beach which has caused a ship to lower an anchor on top of the pipeline ripping it apart and causing this spill, ” says Ms. Evans Bye, Environmental GIS teacher at Clark Magnet High School.

Gov. Newsom’s response is that the amount of oil will reduce drastically due to gas-powered cars being eliminated from the state in 2035. However, the current problems with this local beach community are continually declining and there is little hope of recovery for some local businesses.