Oct 11, 2021
An underwater pipeline leak off the coast of Huntington Beach, California released tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the ocean on October 2nd. As of this writing, a week after the leak occurred, many of the main questions about how and when it happened—or even how big a leak it is—have yet to be answered. Considering how much offshore pipelines are supposed to be regulated, inspected, and monitored, this shows just how dangerous they really are.
In all, California has eight oil platforms and islands in state waters and 23 in federal waters off its coasts. Hundreds of underwater oil wells connect to these platforms and islands. And this is far from the first time there has been an offshore oil leak.
About 32 years ago, almost 400,000 gallons of crude was spilled near the location of the current leak when an oil tanker ran aground on its anchor near shore.
In 1969, the largest spill in California history triggered the beginning of the modern American environment movement and the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A well blowout at a drilling platform off the Santa Barbara coast shot 4.2 MILLION gallons of crude into the water and onto nearby beaches before it was finally cut off after 11 days.
The oil from the current leak is doing serious environmental damage. Balls of crude oil and muck are littering and coating the southern California coast. Birds, fish, and other marine animals are eating or being coated with oil and are dying. And at least some of this damage will likely be permanent to the environmentally delicate marshes and wetlands that are being contaminated.
This disaster is the result of money-grubbing on the part of oil pipeline operators, oil processors, the big oil companies themselves and shippers. They of course put their profits before the environment whenever the two conflict.
And government agencies supposedly responsible for protecting the environment have looked the other way. According to the federal General Accounting Office, for example, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement neither monitors safety nor enforces environmental rules. It has allowed the oil and gas industry to abandon 18,000 miles of old underwater pipelines off the U.S. coast without confirming that they have been properly cleaned out and decommissioned.
Working people and our environment are the main victims of all this money grubbing and irresponsibility. So long as the control of the world’s oil and gas resources remain in the hands of big oil capitalists, they will continue to destroy the environment which we, as humans, are a part of.