Feds Warned: Follow Environmental Laws Before Letting Ruptured Santa Barbara Pipeline Resume Pumping

Goleta, California— The Center for Biological Diversity today warned the federal government not to allow the pipeline behind the Santa Barbara oil spill to resume pumping crude without a legally required analysis of threats to California’s environment and endangered wildlife.

In a letter to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Center says shutting down the pipeline “was essential to protect public health and the environment” and urges the agency to comply with the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act before letting thepipeline restart operations.

“Allowing this pipeline to resume pumping toxic crude will put our coastal environment at risk of another devastating oil spill,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The federal government has to take a hard look at the threats to wildlife and coastal communities. A full disclosure of the grave risks of oil drilling and transportation should keep this dangerous pipeline closed forever.”

The Center’s letter applauds the Safety Administration’s May 22 corrective order requiring the broken pipeline to shut down and undergo testing for safety. Today’s letter also reminds the agency that it must consult with other agencies on the risks of oil development to endangered species and prepare an environmental impact statement.

Oil spills in the Santa Barbara Channel threaten a wide range of federally protected endangered species, including blue whales, sea otters and leatherback sea turtles. Spilled oil persists in the environment for years and can continue harming wildlife long after cleanup teams have finished their work.

The Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, for example, led to the deaths of an unprecedented number of bottlenose dolphins, a recently published National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study found.

Pipeline accidents are common in California. An independent analysis of federal records has found that since 1986, more than 600 oil and gas pipelineleaks, spills and other incidents in the Golden State have caused at least $769 million in damages, 200 injuries and almost 50 deaths.

A new time-lapse video by the Center documents every “significant pipeline” incident in California — along with their human and financial costs — from 1986 to 2014. On average California suffers 23 significant pipeline incidents a year, according to the data.

“Pipeline leaks are disturbingly common in California, so we need the federal government to take firm action to protect our wildlife and coastal cities from another dangerous oil industry accident,” Sakashita said.