Oil Spill Off California Reminder of Offshore Drilling Danger

CARPINTERIA, California, December 9, 2008 (ENS) - More than 70 people from federal, state and private sector organizations worked today to clean up an undetermined amount of oil that spilled from a platform off the coast of Santa Barbara County on Sunday.

The California Department of Fish and Game Office of Spill Prevention and Response, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Minerals Management Service, and personnel from the responsible party, Dcor LLC, are continuing their coordinated response.

The spill was reported Sunday morning after platform workers discovered oil had leaked from a finger-sized hole in a pump line.

The Coast Guard said today that the total amount of oil released into the water is still under investigation.

No land has been impacted by this spill to date, the Coast Guard said. The platform remains secure, it has resumed production, and no additional oil has been spilled into the ocean.

At the conclusion of today's cleanup efforts, responders reported that 1,344 gallons of oil had been recovered from the location of the spill six miles off the coast.

The oil was spilled from the same platform responsible for an 80,000 barrel spill in 1969 that caused an environmental disaster.

Both spills came from Platform A, which now is operated by Dcor LLC, a California petroleum company that owns Platform A and seven other offshore oil drilling rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel.

Today's cleanup operations involved the use of four response vessels from Clean Seas, the cleanup contractor; six vessels provided by Fishermen's Offshore Response Team and a private contractor; one Coast Guard vessel; two helicopters providing aerial surveillance; and approximately 70 people working in the area of the spill.

The unified command deployed a new technology to maximize the effectiveness of the oil recovery effort. Contractors from Ocean Imaging flew over the spill site in an aircraft Monday and, using a digital multi-spectral camera and thermal imager, produced detailed maps showing the exact locations and levels of thickness for the oil on the water.

This information was sent electronically in near real-time to spill responders, allowing them to reposition recovery vessels to where they could remove the most oil with the greatest level of effectiveness.

The use of this technology was demonstrated last month in Santa Barbara for government officials and oil industry representatives.

Coast Guard has issued a safety broadcast for the cleanup in a five mile radius around the nearby Platform Habitat. The area is 3.5 miles southeast of Platform A and mariners are asked to use caution and avoid the area if possible.

Responders have observed one oiled bird that was not able to be captured. Wildlife will continue to be monitored, and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network will continue to conduct wildlife reconnaissance. To report sightings of oiled wildlife, call 877-UCD-OWCN (877-823-6926).

In view of the spill, the Washington, DC-based nonprofit Ocean Conservancy is urging the next U.S. Congress to consider protection against oil spills in the ocean when debating expansion of offshore oil drilling.

"We urge the next Congress to address our country's need for a comprehensive energy policy that reduces our addiction to oil. Faster, cheaper and safer energy options exist for Congress to push forward. Protecting the ocean against threats from offshore oil drilling must be foremost," said Laura Burton Capps, senior vice president for government affairs and communications at Ocean Conservancy.

"The new administration and Congress should work to protect sensitive coastal waters from new offshore leasing. Another way to help safeguard the ocean is through an ocean trust fund that ensures a portion of drilling revenue is designated to ocean protection," said Capps. "This will strengthen the management of ocean resources to make our ocean healthier for generations to come."

Her mother, Congresswoman Lois Capps, who represents the affected district, pledged to work with the incoming Obama administration to protect the coastline from further oil development.

In a statement today, Capps called the spill another "painful reminder that drilling for oil is a dirty and dangerous business."

"While I'm glad that much of this spill appears to be cleaned up, it was another all too common occurrence that seems an almost inevitable part of drilling for oil," the congresswoman said. "Here on the South and Central Coast we know firsthand that drilling for oil in sensitive coastal regions is just too risky."

{Photo: Oil sheen on the surface of the Santa Barbara Channel after Platform A, in the foreground, leaked oil from a hole in a pump line. (Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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