Update: California’s Refugio oil spill larger than estimated

May 4, 2016
Update: California’s Refugio oil spill larger than estimated

Controversy is brewing over just how much crude oil fouled pristine beaches and ocean waters in the Golden State as a result of the Refugio oil spill in May 2015.

On February 17, a preliminary factual report issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration indicates an additional 1,000 barrels of oil may have ended up in our ocean. This puts the total spill volume at an estimated 3,400 barrels or 142,800 gallons.

That’s like having 16 trucks pull up to the beach and dumping every drop of oil into the Pacific Ocean to spread towards unique and irreplaceable places like the Naples Reef State Marine Conservation Area and Kashtayit State Marine Conservation Area, which was established to protect and celebrate the coastal culture practiced by Chumash Indians for millennia.

The federal regulators based its calculations on the purging of affected pipelines required as part of an investigation into what caused the spill. The Plains All-America Pipeline Company put the figure at 2,400 barrels (100,800 gallons), which was later raised to 2,860 barrels. Now a third-party investigator is working to reconcile the difference. Also of interest in the report is that 997 barrels of oil were recovered by the oil spill response—far lower than any estimate of the overall spill volume.

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