Mixer: An oily mess and a slippery cleanup

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friday mixer bannerThe company that owns the pipeline that ruptured this week off the coast of Santa Barbara now has to go through a series of steps before it can restart that line.

Federal regulators are requiring Texas-based Plains All-American Pipeline to remove the damaged section of pipe, test it and then empty the remainder of the line.

Meanwhile, bad weather and choppy waters have slowed the cleanup efforts for the time being.

KCRW’s Kathryn Barnes is a producer and reporter based at our studios in Santa Barbara, and Kelsey Brugger is a reporter with the Santa Barbara Independent, who’s been covering this story from the start.

They both joined us for this week’s Mixer.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which is a seldom-talked-about branch of the Department of Transportation, is overseeing the operation.

Crews have yet to excavate the broken piece of pipeline, which under the law must be done in the presence of federal regulators and a third party, according to the pipe’s owner.

According to a Santa Barbara Independent story published today written by Brugger, the first emergency call came in 12 minutes after an oil pipeline employee remotely shut down the line at 11:30 AM on Tuesday.

There was no automatic shutoff on this pipeline, and – apparently – it was the only one without that kind of emergency measure because oversight was reportedly not under Santa Barbara County regulators.

There’s no official word on what caused the leak, which spilled up to 105,000 gallons of crude into a coastal ditch Tuesday.

About a fifth of that amount is estimated to have flowed into the sea northwest of Santa Barbara.

Meanwhile, this latest spill has reminded a lot of local residents of another, albeit bigger, environmental disaster: an oil spill that happened in 1969.