Amplify Energy, the pipeline operator responsible for the spill that leaked about 25,000 gallons of oil into the ocean off Huntington Beach in October 2021, announced on Monday, April 10 that it was refilling the pipeline and plans to resume operations this month, the Orange County Register reported on Monday.
While the announcement puts an end to a saga that attracted national media attention and involved numerous lawsuits and countersuits, the spill has some environmentalists hoping for stricter regulations for offshore oil operators.
Brady Bradshaw, senior oceans campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, filed a federal lawsuit against offshore oil equipment, inspection schedules, and the financial rules of closing operations after mentioning the Huntington Beach spill.
However, federal rules currently do not consider the fact that the equipment used off the Orange County coast, leading to platforms in federal waters, is nearly a half-century old, far older than its intended lifespan, with regulations doing little to monitor increased shipping in the area, which played a role in the local spill.
Amplify, which pleaded guilty last year to violating the federal Clean Water Act and agreed to pay a $7.1 million criminal fine, began filling the pipeline over the Easter weekend and received final regulatory approval from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration on Friday, April 7, to resume operations.
Previously, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had given broad approval for Amplify to fix the pipeline and restart operations.
Although the pipeline rupture began on the afternoon of October 1, 2021, Amplify workers did not notify authorities until the following day, at which point the spill was floating off the coast of Huntington Beach, closing beaches and wetlands from Huntington to San Diego County.
The spill also disrupted commercial fishing and tourism, leading to a $50 million settlement in which Amplify will compensate victims of the spill.
Amplify recently won a settlement with companies that own ships that dragged anchors over the pipeline in early 2021 without notifying authorities that they’d done so, creating the conditions that led to the pipeline rupture. As Pipeline Technology Journal reported last month, shipping Companies tentatively agreed to pay $100 Million Over California Oil Pipeline Breach.
Some locals affected by the spill said Monday that they are not surprised that the pipeline will resume operations. John Villa, executive director of the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy, which controls four marsh areas between Beach Boulevard and the Santa Ana River, said, “If an incident occurs again, they’ll have a rapid shut-off of the system. And a far faster notification for the folks who could be affected.”
However, others in the environmental community expressed frustration that oil companies can avoid disclosing details of their operations publicly, citing intellectual property laws, a factor that makes it tougher to regulate their operations.
“Every bit of data that we have access to points to the fact that this isn’t productive anymore, and it’s not worth the risk it poses to California,” stated Matt Sylvester, a spokesman for Orange County Coastkeeper.