Santa Barbara

State Leaders Question Company Responsible for Santa Barbara Oil Spill

State leaders convened to discuss the oil spill hours after El Capitan State Beach reopened Friday.

State leaders met Friday for a hearing focused on addressing the Refugio oil spill, which caused nearly 105,000 gallons of oil to leak from a pipeline off the coast of Santa Barbara County in May, polluting several beaches.

During the hearing, state leaders and the Chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee questioned a representative from Plains All American Pipeline about how the 80-foot-section of  pipeline corroded and leaked just two weeks after it was last inspected.

"We will find out what happened and we will take corrective actions," said Patrick Hodgins, Plains All American safety director.

Several leaders at the hearing raised concerns over the fact that state park staff discovered the spill and called for cleanup hours before the pipeline company itself.

"Either you're not applying best practices, or your best practices need to be redefined," said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. "This kind of thing is just a tremendous source of frustration and we expect and will demand better."

Among the laws proposed in the wake of the spill is a requirement that would mandate that pipelines be inspected more often.

In the hours before the hearing, one of the beaches affected by the spill, El Capitan State Beach, was reopened, while another, Refugio State Beach, was expected to remain closed until July 9 as crews continued to clean the cliffside and oil-covered rocks at the beach.

After officials assessed El Capitan State Beach last Thursday, they deemed it safe to open to the public for recreational use during the day and camping at night.

"It looks great," said Jack Baker, a beachgoer from Valencia.

All other Santa Barbara beaches that were closed have been reopened to the public, according to the Refugio Response Joint Information Center.

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