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Environment and Energy

Two months after oil spill, Refugio State Beach to re-open Friday

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Jordan Bell
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After nearly two months of clean up, Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County is re-opening up Friday.  A pipeline leak in May released some 21-thousand-gallons of crude oil into the Santa Barbara Channel.

Tar balls linked to the pipeline were washing up as far south as Long Beach. Testing was underway this week of newly collected tar ball samples from Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange Counties. 

In the days following the Plains All-American pipeline spill, cleanup crews bagged oil-soaked seaweed and sand from the beaches.

The line leaked more than 100-thousand gallons of oil, most of which remained on land. The exact cause is still under investigation, but a federal report shows the pipeline's corrosion was more severe than previously thought.

Cleaning efforts at Refugio lasted longer than any other beach associated with the spill. But last week, authorities deemed the site safe for public use. This is welcomed news for Karna Hughes with Visit Santa Barbara.

"It's marking a really important milestone. We can now say that all the major beaches in Santa Barbara County are open and this is really helping us with fighting some of the misconceptions the public had about the beaches being affected," said Hughes.

Two bills directly in response to the spill and authored by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson moved forward this week in Sacramento. They propose to strengthen pipeline inspections and to the make oil response faster and safer.

The beach will open Friday morning at 8.