On Tuesday, a ruptured pipeline on the coast of Santa Barbara leaked an estimated 21,000 gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean. The resulting oil slick was four miles wide, and spread oil onto many of the beaches lining Santa Barbara county. The pipeline was rapidly shut down as soon as the leak was detected, but a good amount of damage was done to the area’s pristine coasts at that point already.
Refugio State Beach was the central area where most of the oil settled on shore, though it remains to be seen how it will spread and where the rest of the slick will end up. The pipeline belongs to Plains All-American Pipeline, who issued a written statement admitting fault, expressing regret, and assuring the leak has been blocked and that every effort is being made to limit the environmental impact of this spill.
As surfers, the last major oil spill to affect our beaches and breaks was 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which gushed oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days. For scale, the estimated amount of oil leaked in 2010 was 210 millions gallons, so around 10,000 times more than Tuesday’s spill in Santa Barbara. Thankfully, this accident was nowhere near as disastrous. That said, any oil into our oceans is bad news.
Emergency crews, including the Coast Guard and local fire departments, responded immediately, and cleanups are already underway. There are no confirmed reports yet as to the extent of the damage.
Affected breaks for now and the near future include popular spots like Refugio and El Capitan, as well as waves across The Ranch. The oil (and its associated beach closures) has the potential to spread south to Sands and Campus Point, as well as north to Jalama. We’ll have updates as the story develops.