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As cleanup crews on Sunday rushed to contain the damage from one of the largest oil spills in recent Southern California history, environmentalists stressed the necessity of ending offshore drilling—and ultimately, of keeping all fossil fuels in the ground.
At least 126,000 gallons of crude oil gushed from a ruptured pipeline off the coast of Huntington Beach into ocean waters and local wetlands, the Los Angeles Times reported late Saturday.
According to the paper:
By sunrise Sunday, oil had washed ashore in Huntington Beach with slicks visible in the ocean, prompting officials to close a stretch of sand from Seapoint Street to the Newport Beach city line at the Santa Ana River jetty. Dead birds and fish had begun to wash up on the shore, officials said… After sunrise the smell of diesel and tar overwhelmed the shoreline at Huntington State Beach. Crashing waves brought dark oil onto the shore in clumps and rings.
The city of Huntington Beach said in a statement that “currently, the oil slick plume measures an estimated 5.8 nautical miles long, and runs from the Huntington Beach Pier down into Newport Beach.”
At a Saturday evening press conference, Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr called the spill “a potential ecological disaster.”
Endangered and threatened species that live in the area include humpback whales, snowy plovers, and California least terns.
“The coastal areas off of Southern California are just really rich for wildlife, a key biodiversity hot spot,” Center for Biological Diversity oceans program director Miyoko Sakashita told the Associated Press.
“The oil spill just shows how dirty and dangerous oil drilling is,” she continued. “It’s impossible to clean it up so it ends up washing up on our beaches and people come into contact with it and wildlife comes in contact with it. It has long-lasting effects on the breeding and reproduction of animals.”
Jacqueline Savitz, chief policy officer at the conservation group Oceana, called the spill “just the latest tragedy of the oil industry.”
“The reality of our reliance on oil and gas is on full display here,” she said. “This is the legacy of the fossil fuel age, in which the oil and gas industry pushed their product until we were addicted. We need to break that addiction by shifting to clean energy. It’s time for the age of oil and gas to be history.”
Savitz called on President Joe Biden “to deliver on his campaign promise to end offshore drilling.”
Kelsey Lamp, director of the Protect Our Oceans campaign at Environment America, warned that “this spill will have long-lasting consequences.”
“Harm from oil leaks persists for years,” she stressed. “We cannot forget that no matter what stage in the process—from extraction and refining to transportation and its use in cars—oil is dirty and dangerous to both our climate and our ability to simply breathe freely every day.”
“We ultimately need to keep oil and gas in the ground, end offshore drilling, and require stronger penalties for fossil fuel companies that are responsible for oil spills,” Lamp added.