Officials look to ship anchor striking pipeline as possible cause of California oil spill

Authorities on Monday said they are looking into the possibility that a ship's anchor damaged a pipeline and caused the massive oil spill that started over the weekend and has affected multiple Southern California beaches.

The oil spill is one of the largest in recent California history, with at least 126,000 gallons of crude leaking out into the coastline. Miles of beaches in Orange County could potentially be closed down for weeks as cleanup operations continue.

Martyn Willsher, CEO of Amplify Energy, which operates the affected pipeline, said an anchor striking the pipeline is “one of the distinct possibilities," according to The Associated Press.

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Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jeannie Shaye concurred with this, saying, "We’re looking into if it could have been an anchor from a ship, but that’s in the assessment phase right now."

According to Willsher, divers have examined more than 8,000 feet of the pipeline and are concentrating on “one area of significant interest.” 

Soon after the oil spill began, workers moved to shut off the pipeline and retrieve as much of the oil as possible. However, by Sunday morning, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley shared on Twitter that the spill had had "significant ecological impacts" on Huntington Beach.

"We’ve started to find dead birds & fish washing up on the shore," Foley tweeted.

As the AP noted, Orange County district attorney Todd Spitzer has said that he has tasked investigators with determining whether he could bring state charges for the spill. Spitzer also said Amplify divers should not be permitted to be near the pipeline without independent authority from him.

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Numerous California Democrats called for the limiting or halting of offshore drilling in light of the spill.

“The oil spill off the coast of Orange County reiterates the perils of offshore drilling,” said Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinWhat's that you smell in the Supreme Court? New variant raises questions about air travel mandates Progressive groups urge Feinstein to back filibuster carve out for voting rights or resign MORE (D-Calif.). “This spill highlights why we must also take action to prevent future spills, including passing the West Coast Ocean Protection Act. Our bill would permanently ban oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington."

Recently appointed junior California Sen. Alex PadillaAlex Padilla91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Historic immigration reform included in House-passed spending bill MORE (D) tweeted, “We’ve seen time and time again how damaging offshore oil spills are to our coastal ecosystems as well as to our economy. We have the power to prevent future spills—that’s why I’m committed to ending offshore oil drilling,”