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California declares state of emergency in response to massive oil spill

State of emergency after California oil spill
California declares state of emergency after oil spill 01:58

California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency for Orange County in response to a massive oil spill near Huntington Beach over the weekend. The county's board of supervisors also declared a local emergency on Tuesday.

An offshore oil rig leaked at least 126,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean over the weekend - it is considered the largest oil spill the area has ever seen. The cause of the spill is under investigation and clean-up efforts have been led by several state and local agencies.

For nearly 12 hours, the pipeline was spewing oil into the ocean before any action was taken to stop it. The Coast Guard received reports of an "unknown sheen" on the water late Friday night but said it didn't have enough information to deploy boats. Amplify Energy, which operates the pipeline, didn't report the leak until Saturday morning.

Coast Guard Captain Rebecca Ore said in a Tuesday news conference that all of the agency's findings would be turned over to investigators. The agency said a portion of a split pipeline moved more than 100 feet across the ocean floor, which is uncommon. Crews did not find any evidence of a vessel being above the pipeline around the time of the leak, the agency said. 

"We're going to continue to scale up as our teams come in from around the country and pick up as much as we can as soon as it's identified," Ore said.

Newsom's emergency declaration sent additional personnel to assist with the cleanup. Katrina Foley, the county supervisor, said the local order would also ensure that "county resources are available to respond to and recover from this oil spill."

Oil Spill
Workers cleaning oil in Huntington Beach on October 4, 2021,  Mario Tama / Getty

The National Audubon Society said "a spill of this magnitude is a disaster" for birds. As of Monday, eight birds have been recovered alive from the oil spill's aftermath, according to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

"This spill — in virtually the same spot as a devastating 1990 spill — is a reminder that petroleum and water are a dangerous mix along California's precious coast and that continued reliance on oil kills birds and other wildlife, threatens our public health, and harms local economies and recreational opportunities," Sarah Rose, executive director of Audubon California, said in a statement.

Newsom said the state is on the path of phasing out fossil fuel usage. He said California has not granted new offshore leases for oil production in more than 50 years and that he has directed oil extraction to be phased out by 2045.

"The state is moving to cut red tape and mobilize all available resources to protect public health and the environment," Newsom said in a statement Monday. "As California continues to lead the nation in phasing out fossil fuels and combating the climate crisis, this incident serves as a reminder of the enormous cost fossil fuels have on our communities and the environment."

Lilia Luciano contributed reporting.

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