On Saturday, October 1, 2o21, an offshore drilling pipeline operated by Amplify Energy ruptured and released an estimated 24,696 gallons of crude oil off Huntington Beach and the lands and waters of the Tongva and Acjachemen peoples. The oil slick that extended 13 square miles wreaked havoc on both the environment and communities, harming marine life, damaging sensitive habitats and culturally significant Indigenous places, triggering beach closures, impacting businesses, and washing as far south as Mexico.
The 2021 Amplify Energy oil spill disaster was just the latest reminder of the unacceptable risks and impacts of offshore oil and gas development. While the Unified Command announced the conclusion of the official oil spill cleanup on December 28, 2021, following months of inspired efforts by agencies, community partners, workers, and volunteers, much critical work remains to be done to mitigate the harm and avoid future damage. Our organizations are united in urging our government leaders and Amplify Energy to follow through on the following priorities.
First, the federal government must deny Amplify Energy’s application to restart the San Pedro oil pipeline that was responsible for the 2021 spill. Instead, our groups call on the Biden administration to conduct a comprehensive and site-specific environmental review of the San Pedro Bay Pipeline Repair Project. We fully expect this review to result in permit denial due to the impacts of continued industrial maintenance on an aging pipeline with an increasing likelihood of leaks and spills each passing year.
Second, Amplify Energy must be held accountable for mitigating the environmental harm caused by the oil spill. As part of the ongoing Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process, responsible government agencies must conduct a comprehensive review and documentation of damages and develop a robust environmental restoration plan to be implemented. Our organizations seek to actively participate in the NRDA process through public comment and meeting opportunities, and look forward to NOAA’s publication of the Notice of Intent to Conduct Restoration Planning.
Third, existing offshore drilling off California and beyond must be terminated through the timely decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure in accordance with federal, state, and local laws. California’s offshore oil and gas leases are nearing, or have reached, the end of their expected lifespan, and aging infrastructure increases the likelihood of more and worse spills and accidents. Finally, while California was not included in the Proposed Offshore Drilling Program for 2023-2028, our organizations urge the Biden administration to finalize a five-year plan that protects all U.S. waters from new oil and gas leasing.
Achieving the goals above will require strong leadership from elected officials and government agencies, as well as significant effort and collaboration from the industry. This work is also fundamental to addressing climate change and must be carried out in a just and equitable manner.
The following are comments from indigenous and environmental leaders keeping close tabs on the cleanup efforts and future legislation and policy involving offshore drilling:
“Unsustainable extractive policies and practices have been causing harm to Indigenous lands and waters throughout California for hundreds of years. As we collectively continue to experience the disastrous repercussions of climate change, now more than ever Indigenous leadership is needed. We must end extractive industries on land and sea and prioritize Indigenous land rematriation as a necessary component of all strategies for a just transition.” ~Angela Mooney D’Arcy, Acjachemem, Executive Director & Founder, Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples
“The Amplify Energy Oil Spill was yet another reminder of the damaging impacts of offshore oil drilling on our coastal environment, communities, and the planet. It’s time that we decommission oil rigs off California and ensure the San Pedro Bay Pipeline that caused the 2021 spill is not reopened. Surfrider also calls for the Biden administration to protect all U.S. waters from new offshore oil and gas leasing in its next five-year offshore drilling plan.” ~Dr. Chad Nelsen, CEO Surfrider Foundation
“It is well past time to responsibly decommission Orange County’s offshore oil and gas infrastructure. Offshore drilling generates a minuscule amount of California’s oil yet poses an enormous threat to our environment and economy. We need political leaders to take decisive action to stop these operations and responsibly push our state to a more sustainable future. If these facilities continue to pump, we will undoubtedly suffer from more spills.” ~Garry Brown, Founder & President, Orange County Coastkeeper
“The Amplify Oil Spill last year was tragic, but it was also completely predictable and preventable. The only way to guarantee our coast and community stays clean and unpolluted is to decommission the oil rigs off our coast. We have the federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to make bold investments that transition away from fossil fuels. We need our leaders to make the bold choice to stop all offshore leases and to end offshore drilling.” ~Aaron McCall, Federal Advocacy Coordinator, California Environmental Voters
“Last year’s deadly oil spill off Huntington Beach killed or injured hundreds of birds and marine animals. The best way to honor that loss of life and prevent more destruction is to shut down this decrepit pipeline for good. California’s aging offshore infrastructure needs to be decommissioned. If the Biden administration is serious about protecting our oceans and climate, it has to start phasing out offshore drilling.” ~Brady Bradshaw, Senior Oceans Campaigner, The Center for Biological Diversity
Editor’s Note: The above is a joint statement by the Surfrider Foundation, Center for Biological Diversity, Orange County Coastkeeper, Sacred Places Institute, California Environmental Voters, Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast, Oceana and the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center concerning the impacts of the Amplify Energy Spill.