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Federal Investigators Name MSC DANIT As 'Party In Interest' As Lawmakers Intensify Scrutiny Of Coastal Offshore Drilling

HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA) — The federal investigation into the oil spill off Huntington Beach has focused on a container ship, just as celebrities and local lawmakers intensify the scrutiny on oil drilling off the coast of California.

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The MSC Danit cargo ship docked at the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach, California, U.S. on Friday, March 26, 2021. Overwhelmed U.S. ports, elevated freight costs and accidents that sent goods plunging to the bottom of the ocean are causing headaches for U.S. retailers already reeling from the pandemic. Photographer: Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Federal investigators boarded MSC DANIT on Sunday, calling the vessel a "party in interest." The MSC DANIT is operated by a Swiss-Italian shipping firm, and owned by Dordellas Finance Corporation. Neither company has commented on the investigation.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the MSC DANIT was involved in an anchor-dragging incident during a "heavy weather event" on Jan. 25, 2021. The weather event impacted the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and authorities say the anchor-dragging incident happened near the subsea pipeline that was ultimately found to be the source of the oil spill on Oct. 2.

The investigation is sharpening its focus as actress and environmental activist Jane Fonda joined state senators Dave Min and Henry Stern in Laguna Beach Monday morning in a push to ban offshore drilling.

"There are 1,200 active wells in California's coastal waters. And in federal waters, there are 23 oil and gas production facilities," Fonda said. "Some of these, like Platform LA where the recent spill occurred, were built between the 1960s and the 1990s and have reached or exceeded their expected life span. They are not safe, and they should be shut down and decommissioned."

Rep. Katie Porter also joined Reps. Alan Lowenthal and Mike Levin to hold a joint hearing in Irvine Monday and to get feedback from their constituents on how the spill has impacted their lives.

"As of Oct. 10, workers have recovered 250,000 pounds of oily debris, and 14 barrels full of tar balls from the Orange County shorelines," she said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein has introduced a bill called the "West Coast Ocean Protection Act," which would permanently ban oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Six seabirds that were indirectly affected by the oil spill were also released back into the wild Monday. The birds were not oiled, but were rescued and held back until officials could ensure a clean and safe environment for them. The Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center had held back more than 200 birds since the spill.

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