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Boxer and Capps tour Refugio oil spill site, call for tougher industry oversight

Lisa Osborn, KCBX News

Two powerful women in Congress are making a push for more stringent oil industry safety standards on the Central Coast. 

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) toured Refugio State Beach on Tuesday, the site of last May's ruptured oil line that spilled an estimated 101,000 gallons of oil onto the Gaviota Coast.

While there were no obvious signs of damage on the sand or in the water, spill both lawmakers said a lot more needs to be done to prevent similar events from happening in the future.

Boxer called the economic and ecological disaster a wake up call. "The jobs depend on a pristine coast," she said.

Both lawmakers blamed the federal agency that oversees the nation’s pipeline network for the severity of this spill. Capps said even though the investigation by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHIMSA)  is not yet complete, it’s already clear that relaxed federal safety standards did play a big role.

Capps said similar pipelines in Santa Barbara County that fall under the watch of state and county regulators, have automatic shut off valves, which the broken line lacked.

Captain Jennifer Williams with the U.S. Coast Guard said the spill affected nearly 100 miles of coastline, stretching beyond Santa Barbara County. She offered an update on the clean up progress, which she said is now at more than 90 percent completion.

Williams said, "92.7 percent of beaches have made clean up end points, 0.6 percent are still undergoing active clean up, and 6.7 percent of beaches are being cleaned again."

The clean up coasts are at $100 million and climbing, all of which Plains All-American Pipeline is responsible for paying.