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California Oil Spill: Pipeline Company Must Meet Regulations Before Restarting Line

Nearly 10,000 gallons of oily water has been removed in the three days since the spill.

The company that operates a pipeline that leaked more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean along the California coast must empty and inspect the line before it can restart operations, federal regulators said Friday.

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a corrective action order to Plains All American requiring that the line that befouled nearly 10 miles of the coastline near Santa Barbara be emptied, inspected and improved.

Any potential issues with the pipeline will be "required to be addressed before they're even allowed to be considered for restart," said Christopher Hoidal, the director of pipeline safety for the Department of Transportation.

"A corrective action letter is something to expect when you have an unfortunate release such as this," said Patrick Hodgins, the senior director of safety for Plains All American. Hodgins added that the company will assist investigators.

The cause of Tuesday's spill still isn't known, but Hoidal said an inspection done in early May might reveal the problem that caused the spill and determine other "anomalies" in the pipe. More than 50 anomalies were found in the pipeline during two previous inspections in 2007 and 2012, according to the DOT.

Nearly 10,000 gallons of oily water has been removed in the four days since the spill, said Coast Guard Capt. Jennifer Williams at a news conference Friday. But the two state beaches affected by the spill, El Capitan and Refugio, will remain closed through the Memorial Day holiday, and until June 4, said Eric Hjelstrom, a state park superintendent.

Crews were also working to rescue wildlife affected by the spill. Michael Ziccardi, an oil spill response director, said six oiled pelicans, two oiled sea lions and one elephant seal had been rescued. A dolphin was found dead in the affected area, but it wasn't clear if it died as a result of the oil, Ziccardi said. One sea lion was on its way to Sea World San Diego's Animal Care Facility, and the one already in their care is "very sick," said spokeswoman Kelly Terry.


— Elisha Fieldstadt