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California Oil Spill Cleanup Costs Reaches $62M

cal oil spillThe cost of cleaning up last month’s oil spill that fouled beaches along the California coast has reached $62 million, the pipeline company said Wednesday.

Patrick Hodgins, the Plains All American Pipeline’s on-scene coordinator, told The Associated Press that costs are running at $3 million per day and there is no timetable for when the cleanup will be complete.

The company is responsible for footing the bill after the pipeline break near Santa Barbara forced the closure of two state beaches and prompted a fishing ban in the area.

“The responsibility here is to get it cleaned up as quickly as possible,” he said.

About 76 percent of the 97 miles of coastline have been cleared of oil. The labor intensive process includes using putty knives and other tools to scrape oil off rocks and cobble beaches.

“The beaches are fairly clean,” said Coast Guard Capt. Jennifer Williams, one of two federal response coordinators. “We’re making progress on the shoreline cleanup.”

The May 19 spill occurred after an onshore pipeline operated by Texas-based Plains All American ruptured, leaking up to 101,000 gallons of crude. About 21,000 gallons entered a storm drained and washed out to the Pacific Ocean.

While more than 100 animals were found covered in oil and are undergoing rehabilitation, wildlife experts recovered 161 dead birds and 97 dead marine mammals, mostly sea lions.

The toll of the spill is a sliver of the 1969 oil platform blowout off Santa Barbara County that blackened miles of coastline and killed thousands of shorebirds and other wildlife.

At the height of the cleanup, there were almost 1,200 people involved. Eighteen boats were skimming oil from the water while a pair of helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft buzzed overhead.

Plains revised the total cleanup cost after initially pegging it at $69 million. Company spokeswoman Meredith Matthews said daily costs are expected to decrease as work progresses.

The cause of last month’s break has not been determined, but documents released by federal regulators after the spill said testing conducted in early May found extensive external corrosion along some sections of the pipeline.

Hodgins declined to comment on the investigation by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

As cleanup continued, the California Coastal Commission said at its monthly meeting Wednesday that it notified the company that it has opened its own investigation.

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