There was no automatic shut-off valve on the pipeline that leaked over 100,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean off the California coast early last week, officials said.
That particular pipeline was the only one of its kind in the area without an automatic shut-off valve. As it turns out, the original owner won a late 1980s court case to skirt the requirement.
Since the pipeline formed part of an interstate network, the former owners argued it should be subject to federal, not county regulations. Federal regulations do not require auto shut-off valves.
“It’s the only major pipeline that doesn’t have auto shut-off,” said Kevin Drude, deputy director of the Santa Barbara county Energy and Minerals Division. “For us, it’s routine.”
On Saturday, rough weather and high winds complicated efforts to clean up the spill.
The oil slick thinner than a coat of paint that covers 10 square miles off the coast of Santa Barbara was becoming harder to skim from rough waters, officials said, as more dead animals were discovered in the muck.
On Friday, workers recovered five petroleum-soaked dead pelicans from the coastline along with a dolphin carcass with no oil on it that had washed ashore in Santa Barbara Harbor. An animal autopsy will end up performed to determine the cause of death.
Since Tuesday, more than105,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into Refugio State Beach from an underwater pipeline owned by Plains All American Pipeline. The pipeline runs parallel to the coastal highway.
The spill, which is the worst in the area since 1969, is under investigation from federal, state and local prosecutors for possible violations of federal and state law.
On Wednesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the Santa Barbara County coast, closing fisheries in an area that stretches 23 miles long and 7 miles wide and banning the use of Refugio State Beach.