Cleanup personnel on Monday worked to repair an oil spill off the coast of California that spilled up to 3,000 barrels of oil into the Pacific Ocean and shut down the beach community known as “Surf City.”
The spill on Saturday is thought to be caused by a broken pipeline connected to a foreign platform owned by Amplify Energy in Houston.
Shares in Amplify, which closed its production and pipeline operations in the Beta field where the oil was pumped, fell 43.8 percent to $ 3.23 on Monday.
Huntington Beach, about 40 miles south of Los Angeles and home to the U.S. Open of Surfing, was hit the hardest. Mayor Kim Carr said that 13 square kilometers of seawater and coastline were covered with oil and that an ‘ecological disaster’ was unfolding. Dead fish and birds washed up on the beach, warning the mayor that it could be closed for months.
Oil also threatens to wash further south in Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, some of the most expensive coastlines in the country.
Michelle Steel, a Republican congresswoman from the Orange County district that includes Huntington Beach, has asked the Biden administration to issue a disaster statement. Orange County was once a bedrock of the Republican Party, but recently handed over important victories to the Democrats.
The spill has put a spotlight on the risks of aging oil and gas infrastructure in California. According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a U.S. agency, there are 23 oil and gas platforms operating in federally controlled waters more than three miles off the coast of California, most of which have been operating for more than 40 years.
The Beta Field facilities were built in the late seventies and early eighties and the area today supplies about 3600 barrels of oil per day.
Amplify has been cited over the years for dozens of environmental violations, including 72 ‘non-compliance incidents’ that were serious enough to force the company to shut down equipment on the platform, according to federal regulatory data.
Amplify CEO Martyn Willsher told a news conference on Monday that a ship’s anchor was “one of several possibilities” for the cause of the crash.
He said his business would pay for the cleanup. “Whatever needs to be done, we take care of it. . . We have substantial insurance, in addition to our funds, ”he said.
New foreign leasing and drill in state-owned water was halted after a spill in Santa Barbara, California, which was the largest in the country when it occurred in 1969.
Willsher told analysts in August that the company plans to drill two new wells in the fourth quarter of this year, saying the ‘strong commodity pricing environment’ means the project could generate ‘significant free cash flow’. US crude oil has a seven years high Monday.
Amplify is the successor to Memorial Production Partners, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early 2017 following an earlier slump in oil prices.
California, home to one of America’s early oil trees in the 1920s, has been reporting declining crude production for years, but remains the seventh largest producer in the U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Environmentalists said the spill should accelerate California’s efforts to halt oil production.
Two California lawmakers, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Jared Huffman, have enacted legislation this year to ban oil and gas drilling in federal waters such as the Beta Field.
In April, Gavin Newsom, governor of California, asked the state resource board to develop a plan to phase out oil exploration in the state by 2045. oil and gas, by January 2024.
Officials are now looking at the waters of California for their potential to produce wind power. In May, the Biden administration began plans to lease two large areas off the northern coast of California sea wind development.
Amplify’s largest shareholder is Avenue Capital Group, an investment firm formed by a billionaire investor. Marc Lasry, which owns a 7 percent stake, according to recent regulatory applications.