Clean-up crews worked Monday to contain damage from an oil spill off the coast of California that dumped up to 3,000 barrels of oil into the Pacific Ocean and closed the beach in a community known as name of “Surf City”.
Saturday’s spill was reportedly caused by a broken pipeline connected to an offshore platform owned by Houston-based Amplify Energy.
Shares of Amplify, which closed its production and pipeline operations in the Beta field where the oil was pumped, fell 43.8% to $ 3.23 on Monday.
Huntington Beach, about 40 miles south of Los Angeles and home to the US Open of Surfing, has been hit the hardest. Mayor Kim Carr said 13 square miles of ocean and coastline were covered in oil and an “ecological catastrophe” was unfolding. Dead fish and birds have washed up on the beach, which the mayor has warned could be closed for months.
Oil was also threatening to run aground further south at Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, some of the country’s most expensive coastlines.
Michelle Steel, a Republican MP for the Orange County district which includes Huntington Beach, has asked the Biden administration to release a disaster declaration. Orange County was once the backbone of the Republican Party, but has recently won some important victories for the Democrats.
The spill highlighted the risks posed by California’s aging offshore oil and gas infrastructure. According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a U.S. agency, 23 oil and gas platforms operate in federally controlled waters more than three miles off the coast of California, most of which have been operating for more than 40 years.
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The Beta field facilities were built in the late 1970s and early 1980s and the region today produces approximately 3,600 barrels of oil per day.
Amplify has been cited for dozens of environmental offenses over the years, including 72 “incidents of non-compliance” serious enough to force the company to shut down equipment on the platform, according to federal regulatory data.
Martyn Willsher, chief executive of Amplify, told a press conference on Monday that an anchor from a ship was “one of the distinct possibilities” of the cause of the spill.
He said his business would pay for the cleanup. “Whatever needs to be done, we’ll take care of it. . . We have significant insurance, in addition to our cash on hand, ”he said.
New rentals and offshore drilling in state-owned waters have been halted after a spill in Santa Barbara, California, which was the largest in the country when it occurred in 1969.
Willsher told analysts in August that the company plans to drill two new wells on its field in the fourth quarter of this year, saying the “high commodity price environment” means the project could generate “cash flow. important available “. US crude hit a seven-year high on Monday.
Amplify is the successor company to Memorial Production Partners, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early 2017 after a previous drop in oil prices.
California, which experienced one of America’s first oil booms in the 1920s, reported declining crude production for years, but remains the seventh largest producer in the United States, according to US Energy Information Administration. Environmentalists said the spill should speed up California’s efforts to stop oil production.
Two California lawmakers, US Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Jared Huffman, this year introduced a bill to ban oil and gas drilling in federal waters such as the Beta field.
In April, Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, asked the state’s Air Resources Board to develop a plan to phase out oil extraction statewide by 2045. His administration sought to suspend the issuance of permits for hydraulic fracturing, an oil and gas extraction technique, by January 2024.
Authorities are now looking to California waters for their wind power generation potential. In May, the Biden administration began pushing forward plans to lease two large areas off the northern California coast to offshore wind development.
Amplify’s largest shareholder is Avenue Capital Group, an investment firm co-founded by billionaire investor Marc Lasry, which had a 7% stake, according to recent regulatory documents.