Pipeline company defends safety technology used prior to Refugio spill

May 26, 2015

Source of the oil spill along the Santa Barbara County coast.
Credit Santa Barbara County Fire Department

Crews on Tuesday were in the process of digging up the pipeline that failed exactly one week earlier, spilling an estimated 100,000 gallons of crude oil on nearby land and into the Santa Barbara Channel.

Plains All-American Pipeline Company said just about all of the oily soil surrounding the pipeline had been removed from the area as of Tuesday evening.

The affected section of pipe, once removed, will be sent to a third-party inspector to determine what could have caused the rupture.

Company spokesperson Rick McMichael used Tuesday's press briefing to address concerns over the company's practices involving safety valves and shut off systems. He said the systems in place on the ruptured pipeline were appropriate for its purpose.

"As we've said before, we do not feel it is prudent to install an automatic shut-off valve for safety reasons," said McMichael. "Automatically closing a valve on an operating pipeline such as this, increases pressure which could create an unsafe condition." 

"It's like slamming your car into park while you're traveling down the freeway," McMichael added.

McMichael said the pipeline is monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year from a control room outside the area.