California oil spill update

More than two months after crude oil from a ruptured pipeline fouled California beaches, its operator disclosed that the volume of the spill might be far larger than earlier projected.

Plains All American Pipeline had estimated that the May spill, west of Santa Barbara, released up to 101 000 gallons. But in documents made public recently, the Texas-based company said alternate calculations found the spill may have been up to 143 000 gallons, or about 40% larger.

The company is continuing its analysis, and the figures are preliminary. Plains All American has hired an outside consultant as part of the effort to reconcile the differences, the documents said.

At this point, the company considers the methodology used in its initial estimate to be “the most straight forward and accurate calculation.” However, it emphasised the estimate could change as the investigation continues.

Comments on the miscalculation

In a statement, Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts, faulted the federal agency responsible for regulating the nation's pipelines for the conflicting figures.

“The revelation that the Santa Barbara pipeline spill was much larger than originally thought underscores the importance of our pipeline safety agency providing complete information to Congress and the American people. Unfortunately, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's operational culture has been to withhold information from the American people and Congress.”

The company has been criticised for taking about 90 min to alert federal responders after confirming the spill west of Santa Barbara that spread on beaches as far as 100 miles away.

Edited from press release by Stephanie Roker

Published on 12/08/2015

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