A broken pipeline is responsible for spilling oil and creating a 4-mile-long oil slick on the coastline near Refugio State Beach, officials said
The pipeline rupture originated on land Tuesday somewhere north of Highway 101. The oil then leaked under the highway and railroad, onto the beach, and into the ocean, officials said.
The pipeline was shut off, but it was not immediately clear Tuesday how much oil spilled.
Richard Abrams with the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management said the broken pipe operated by Plains All American Pipeline had been abandoned some time ago. He couldn't say when, and noted, "I guess there was still some product in there."
Abrams said cleanup contractors will determine how much oil spilled, and that will determine how much Plains All American is fined. From here on out, he explained, the incident is being managed by the county, the U.S. Coast Guard and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. A command post is being set up in the area.
No evacuations were ordered Tuesday, but nearby residents have reportedly been leaving their homes voluntarily because of the strong fumes.
According to the county's Energy Division, All American Pipeline operates two onshore pipelines that are currently in service. One, 24 inches in diameter, 10 miles long, and with a 150,000 barrel per day capacity, transports oil from ExxonMobil's Las Flores Canyon Processing Facility near Refugio to the main All American Pipeline system at Gaviota. The other pipe transports oil from Gaviota to Kern County refineries.
Calls from the Independent to Plains All American Pipeline were not returned late Tuesday afternoon.
County firefighters were the first to discover the spill after they responded around 11:30 a.m. to reports of gas smells in the area. Firefighters pinpointed the leak just north of Refugio State Beach.
By Tuesday afternoon, tides and winds were pushing the oil slick south, officials said. At least two Clean Seas cleanup vessels were called to the area to start mopping up the large slick. Additionally, a number of county, state, and federal agencies descended on the area.