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California Oil Spill Timeline: Authorities knew of spill at least 12 hours before it was reported

About 144,000 gallons of crude oil has spilled off the coast of California, it is thought to be one of the largest oil spills in the state’s recent history.

The oil spill has shut down prized beaches, damaged the environment and presented possible health hazards for local residents.

An investigation into the pipeline leak clarifies the timeline of when authorities and the pipeline company learned about the spill and what they did in response.




The Unified Command said the National Response Center first received a report of an unknown sheen of unknown source on Friday evening.

“These types of reports are common and in many cases, the sheen reported can be natural seepage of oil or sheen that is never located,” the Unified Command said in a press release.

“NOAA satellite imagery was reported to agencies early morning reporting a possible oil anomaly.”



Crews from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response went to investigate before sunrise, but conditions were foggy and the crew returned to shore, authorities said.

“The Coast Guard and Orange County Sheriff deployed at first light once fog lifted to investigate. A Coast Guard aircraft was diverted to support the investigation. On Saturday morning, the company confirmed a release of oil from a pipeline,” the Unified Command said.

The timeline confirms that California authorities were notified late Friday of reports of an oil sheen at the site of the spill, more than 12 hours before Amplify Energy Corp, the operator of the line, reported it to state and federal officials.

At a news conference Monday, Amplify’s Willsher said a sheen was detected by company personnel Saturday morning, not Friday night. Willsher said while there is equipment to detect the leak without visibly seeing oil spills, there were no notices of a potential leak in the line before Saturday.

The timing is important because of how many people were potentially impacted by the spill on Saturday, said Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley.

“There were hundreds of boaters out on the Huntington Beach coast because we had an air show,” Foley said. “There were hundreds of boaters coming back and forth from Catalina to Orange County.”

In a federal “corrective action order,” Amplify Energy was directed to shut down the pipeline entirely, provide maintenance and inspection records, and complete a root cause failure analysis, among other requirements.