On May 19, 2015, a large release of crude oil was reported from a pipeline operated by Plains All American Pipeline, L.P., approximately one mile northwest of Refugio State Beach, in Santa Barbara County. Oil was released from the pipeline rupture into a culvert that drains into the Pacific Ocean. The pipeline runs adjacent to California Highway 101, parallel to a Union Pacific rail line.
While the location of the pipeline release is in the ‘inland zone,’ the impacts to the environment are both inland and coastal. Under the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP), the inland and coastal zones are defined in terms of delineating the area of Federal responsibility for response action. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for cleanup actions in the inland zone and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is responsible for cleanup actions in the coastal zone.
The NCP and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) gives the U.S. EPA and the USCG authority to ensure effective and immediate removal of a discharge, and mitigate or prevent a substantial threat of a discharge of oil or hazardous substances (i) into or on navigable waters; (ii) on the adjoining shorelines to navigable waters; (iii) into or on the waters of an exclusive economic zone; and (iv) that may affect natural resources belonging to, appertaining to, or under the exclusive management authority of the United States.
Current EPA activities at the site include participation in the Unified Command with partner Federal, State, and Local agencies and the responsible party, oversight of cleanup efforts in the overland pathway, and planning for the transition to long-term remedial efforts. Additional information and updates are available at the Refugio Response Website (see Web Links in the column to the right).