FBI joining investigation into O.C. oil spill

Local news

Federal investigators are joining the probe of a major oil spill off the Orange County coast, officials said Thursday.

“The FBI has joined an investigation into the Orange County oil spill near Huntington Beach, California, and is one of many federal agencies investigating to determine the cause of the rupture,” a FBI spokesperson told KTLA in a statement.

The California Department of Justice is also investigating the spill, along with the Coast Guard.

The spill off Huntington Beach was confirmed Oct. 2, a day after residents reported a petroleum smell in the area.

Coast Guard officials said it came from a leak in a pipeline owned by Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp. that shuttles crude from offshore platforms to the coast. Officials said the cause of the leak remains under investigation, but the pipeline was likely damaged by a ship’s anchor.

Coast Guard Capt. Jason Neubauer said investigators are trying to find which ship among thousands of possibilities may have snagged the pipeline with its anchor in the past year, possibly during rough seas and high winds in January.

“We are not ruling out anybody at this time,” Neubauer said earlier this week.

It could take a long time for investigators to comb through marine tracking data to see which ships passed over and anchored near the Amplify Energy pipeline running from platform Elly to the Long Beach port.

Investigations by federal prosecutors, the Coast Guard and several other federal agencies, including the National Transportation Safety Board, could lead to criminal charges, civil penalties and new laws or regulations.

On Wednesday, officials announced that around 25,000 gallons of crude oil spilled in the offshore leak — much smaller than previously feared.

Still, the spill had damaging effects.

The shorelines in Huntington Beach and neighboring Newport Beach were shut down until Monday due to the spill and dozens of animals, mostly birds and fish, have been found dead since.

Coastal shops have also taken a hit amid the closures.

Workers in protective gear continue to comb the sand for tar balls washing ashore along more than 70 miles of coastline in Orange and San Diego counties. 

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