Watch CBS News

Oil Rig Operator Waited 3 Hours To Shut Off Pipeline In Huntington Beach Spill, Document Says

HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA) – Despite receiving a warning that something was wrong, operators of an offshore oil rig appeared to wait more than three hours before shutting off a pipeline that leaked tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean waters off the Orange County coastline over the weekend, according to a federal document obtained Tuesday.

Major oil spill in Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach, CA - October 05: An environmental oil spill cleanup crew member picks up chucks of oil on the beach from a major oil spill at Huntington Dog Beach in Huntington Beach Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. Environmental cleanup crews are spreading out across Huntington Beach and Newport Beach to cleanup the damage from a major oil spill off the Orange County coast that left crude spoiling beaches, killing fish and birds and threatening local wetlands. The oil slick is believed to have originated from a pipeline leak, pouring 126,000 gallons into the coastal waters and seeping into the Talbert Marsh as lifeguards deployed floating barriers known as booms to try to stop further incursion, said Jennifer Carey, Huntington Beach city spokesperson. At sunrise Sunday, oil was on the sand in some parts of Huntington Beach with slicks visible in the ocean as well. We classify this as a major spill, and it is a high priority to us to mitigate any environmental concerns, Carey said. Its all hands on deck. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The pipeline leak, which was reported Saturday morning, may have spilled up to 144,000 gallons of oil into the ocean waters. The spill occurred in federal waters at the Elly rig, about 4 1/2 miles off shore. The rig is owned by Amplify Energy.

Federal authorities confirmed Tuesday that a section of Amplify Energy's oil pipeline was damaged and moved more than 100 feet along the ocean floor, an indication that a ship's anchor may have caused the spill.

RELATED: Questions Swirl Around Cause Of Devastating Huntington Beach Oil Spill

A document obtained by CBS2's David Goldstein from the U.S. Department of Transportation indicates a low pressure alarm went off on the Elly at 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

However, workers in the control room of Beta Offshore, a subsidiary of Amplify, did not shut down the pipeline until 6:01 a.m., about 3 ½ hours later.

Amplify didn't notify state and federal authorities until 9:07 a.m., the document states.

"We did not see the sheen at 2:30, like I said, first time we saw the sheen was at 8:09 a.m.," Amplify Energy CEO Martyn Willsher told reporters Tuesday.

"If that's true, then that's pretty terrible for what's going on, because that means there could have been less oil that would be leaking if they had turned it off sooner," Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said.

TIMELINE: Huntington Beach Oil Spill

There are also questions about when the authorities first were notified by the public about a possible spill.

According to a document from the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, the state was first notified of a possible leak at 8:22 p.m. Friday.

A person reported seeing an unknown sheen in the water. However, the U.S. Coast Guard did not send aircraft up until first light the following morning. Sources in the governor's office say they should have moved quicker.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.