On Thursday morning, a broken oil pipe spewed 50,000 gallons of oil in the streets of the Los Angeles suburb of Atwater Village. In some areas, the oil was reported to be knee-deep. The break occurred at a pumping station, where footage shows that oil sprayed 20 feet into the air, causing local businesses to be evacuated.
The oil was being transported from Bakersfield, California’s main oil-producing region, to a storage facility in Long Beach, where there are many oil refineries. Medium-sized oil pipelines, like the one that burst yesterday, can move roughly 200,000 barrels (or 6.3 million gallons) of oil per day. That’s nearly 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of oil. Every day.
The bottom line is that moving large volumes of oil is dangerous regardless of how it’s done. In March, a bulk carrier collided with a barge in Galveston, Texas, causing nearly 170,000 gallons of highly toxic fuel oil to enter Galveston Bay. And just two weeks ago a train transporting crude oil near Lynchburg, Va. derailed and spilled 50,000 gallons of crude into the James River, which flows into the already highly-polluted Chesapeake Bay.
It doesn’t really matter if oil is transported by pipeline, ship, or train. Within the past three months, we’ve had major catastrophes from each of these methods, highlighting how oil transport cannot be done safely.
East coast citizens: consider yourself warned. Drilling off your shores means more oil transportation infrastructure – much like the burst pipe in L.A. – with the potential for catastrophic oil spills. Imagine what this would mean if it happened in major tourist destinations along the southeast coast, like Charleston, S.C., Wilmington, N.C., or Virginia Beach, Va.
Right now, the governors those three states are pushing for drilling to occur off their shores. Hopefully they have not forgotten about how much a healthy ocean ecosystem means to their states’ tourism, commercial, and recreational fishing economies. Once drilling starts, hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of revenue will be put at risk just for a relatively small amount of oil. While unfortunate, these spills should serve as a constant reminder that drilling, transporting, and burning fossil fuels represent an economic and environmental drag on coastal communities everywhere.