Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 22, 2015

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 845-6703,

Following Santa Barbara Oil Spill, New Analysis, Video Reveal Devastating Toll of California Pipelines

621 Pipeline Incidents Since 1986 Have Caused $769 Million in Damage

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.— As cleanup crews struggle with the Santa Barbara oil spill caused by a leaking coastal pipeline carrying oil from offshore drilling platforms, a new analysis released today reveals a troubling history of pipeline accidents in California. An independent analysis of federal records has found that since 1986, more than 600 oil and gas pipeline leaks, spills and other incidents in the Golden State have caused at least $769 million in damages, 200 injuries and almost 50 deaths.

California pipeline video
Video: California pipeline incidents, 1986-2014

A new time-lapse video documents every “significant pipeline” incident in California — along with their human and financial costs — from 1986 to 2014. On average California suffers 23 significant pipeline incidents a year, according to the data.

“The Santa Barbara spill is just the latest example of fossil fuel pipelines’ toxic threat to people and wildlife in California,” said Miyoko Sakashita, the Center for Biological Diversity’s oceans program director. “These dangerous pipelines highlight the broader risks of oil production in our ocean and on land. Drilling and fracking for oil in the Golden State results in fouled beaches, dead wildlife and serious risks to human health and safety.”

The analysis released today examines 621 pipeline incidents since 1986, including spills, leaks, ruptures and explosions. It’s based on records from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which maintains a database of all U.S. pipeline incidents that are classified as “significant,” those resulting in death or injury, damages more than $50,000, more than five barrels of highly volatile substances or 50 barrels of other liquid released, or where the liquid exploded or burned.

Nationally, there have been nearly 8,000 significant incidents with U.S. pipelines, involving death, injury, and economic and environmental damage, since 1986 — more than 300 per year.

Hundreds of miles of pipelines run through California’s coastal areas. They transport oil from drilling and fracking done both onshore and off. As oil companies try to prolong the life of aging offshore infrastructure, they’re increasingly turning to dangerous new oil and gas production techniques.

Offshore fracking has been used hundreds of times in recent years off California’s coast. The Center and more than 200 other organizations that make up the statewide coalition Californians Against Fracking have called on Gov. Jerry Brown to halt fracking and other dangerous oil extraction techniques in the ocean and across the state to protect communities, safeguard ecosystems and fight climate change.

“We’ll never be safe from spills like this until we get off oil altogether by switching to clean energy,” said Sakashita.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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