New California Oil Slick Being Investigated By Coast Guard

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The Coast Guard is looking into a new oil slick only 12 miles from an oil spill off the Southern California coast in May.

Al Jazeera reports:

The slick, spanning approximately 3 square miles of the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 yards from shore, was spotted off Goleta State Beach, but the origin of the sheen was unknown, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Sondra-Kay Kneen.

A Coast Guard team sampling the spilled oil said it was too thin on the surface to be gathered by conventional methods, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A marine safety team was dispatched to try to determine the source of the oil, including whether it was from a well-known natural seepage in the Santa Barbara Channel.

“We don’t have a cause of this oil, we don’t have a source, we don’t have an amount,” said Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said. “We don’t know if it’s natural seepage or something else.”

He said it appeared to be drifting south toward Santa Barbara but there were no reports of any oil coming ashore.

Three oil companies that own and operate offshore platforms in the area — Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. and privately owned Venoco Inc. — all denied that the oil came from their operations, as did Plains All American Pipeline, the company whose onshore pipeline ruptured in May.

The Center for Biological Diversity said the slick adds to environmental concerns raised by offshore energy development.

“We’ll see spill after spill if we don’t shut down these aging oil platforms and pipelines,” said Miyoko Sakashita, a spokeswoman for the conservation group.

The May 19 pipeline rupture that spilled more than 100,000 gallons of crude occurred to the west, at Refugio State Beach. It sent about 21,000 gallons of crude flowing into the ocean, prompting a massive cleanup on both land and shore that lasted nearly two months. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Santa Barbara County due to the effects of the spill.

There was no immediate indication the two incidents were linked. Both spills occurred on the same stretch of  Santa Barbara Channel coastline that was the site of a massive oil spill in 1969 that is recognized as a key event in the development of the U.S. environmental movement. 

Zaniboni said Wednesday’s oil slick was discovered about 10 a.m. when firefighters responded to reports of the smell of gas off the Goleta pier and spotted the sheen in the ocean.

At about the same time, he said, two kayakers came ashore with oil on their watercraft and legs. They were otherwise unharmed.

The water at Goleta Beach was closed on Wednesday but people were allowed to stay at the beach park.

Refugio State Beach, one of several stretches of coastline soiled by the May spill, reopened to the public just two weeks ago.