SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — On May 19, an underground pipeline on California’s Central Coast leaked up to 101,000 gallons of crude oil. It fouled nearby beaches, and an estimated 21,000 gallons flowed into the ocean. It was the worst spill in the area since a platform blowout in 1969 spilled several million gallons and helped give rise to the modern environmental movement.
Plains All American Pipeline operates the line just north of Santa Barbara. Lawmakers and conservationists are raising questions about whether the company and the federal agencies in charge of the cleanup reacted quickly enough.
A timeline of events on the day of the spill:
—10:45 a.m.: The 24-inch pipeline that transports crude oil roughly 11 miles between Las Flores Canyon and Gaviota experiences mechanical issues. Pumps at the inland Sisquoc Station are shut down.
—10:55 a.m.: Pumps are restarted, then are shut down again 20 minutes later.
—11:30 a.m.: A Plains operator remotely shuts down the entire pipeline because of pressure anomalies.
—11:42 a.m.: The Santa Barbara County Fire Department receives a 911 call about a pungent smell near Refugio State Beach as a preparedness drill with emergency workers and Plains employees is about to start.
—12:20 p.m.: Firefighters discover oil flowing across the beach into the Pacific.
—12:30 p.m.: Plains control center sends a worker to do a visual inspection of the pipeline.
—12:39 p.m.: The Coast Guard is notified and calls the National Response Center — a clearinghouse for reports of hazardous materials releases — about eight minutes later.
—1:30 p.m.: Plains employee confirms oil spill. About the same time, Santa Barbara firefighters stop flow of oil by damming a storm drain with dirt and rocks.
—1:56 p.m.: The Environmental Protection Agency is notified through the National Response Center.
—2:56 p.m.: Plains notifies National Response Center and estimates at least 21,000 gallons leaked. Later, the total is increased after additional analysis. Two state beaches are closed and a fishing ban put in place.
SOURCES: Plains All American Pipeline, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Coast Guard, EPA.