by Mary Haffner
On June 23, at 5:30 a.m., my family was awakened by a sickening smell. A pipeline I did not know existed next to our back yard spilled 45,000 gallons of crude oil into the Prince Barranca. Since that morning, our neighborhood has learned that much of the oil cannot be removed. To do so would create too much instability in the canyon and homes would be compromised. This oil has left behind permanent and long-term injury to this wildlife corridor. To justify this damage, the “Unified Command” has asked our neighborhood to accept a new definition of “clean.”
After two community meetings, a neighborhood meeting with Crimson’s president, and countless hours of research, I have no confidence in the integrity of Crimson or in the 75 year old pipeline that still pumps hazardous and flammable liquids through our city, criss-crossing under streets, near homes and schools. Crimson Pipeline was established in 2005 to transport crude in “legacy” pipelines. Their record of spills reflects the problems commonly found with these aging lines. Many of their pipes are too old to be tested with the latest technology. A 2014 audit by the Office of the Inspector General found that the federal agency charged with regulating pipelines, “lacks effective management and oversight of hazardous liquid pipelines.” The CA agency charged with regulating these lines doesn’t conduct their own independent inspections, they are stretched too thin. Instead, they sign off on inspection plans provided by pipeline companies which allow these companies to do their own testing, or hire their own private company to inspect their lines. Ventura is left sitting atop an ancient line operated by a company with a dismal record of spills. Oil spills are a just a cost of doing business and their business model is to keep these old lines running instead of replacing them. Maintenance over replacement means more spills, leaks, and ruptures.
Another cause for concern is the secretive nature of the industry and its lack of transparency. An April 2016 report by the Ventura County Grand Jury that found that “no single government entity [in Ventura County] has a complete grasp of critical information such as [pipeline] test history, test validity, and risks associated with the total pipeline array in the County . . . and the county does not have a thorough understanding of the state of the total crude oil pipeline array within the County.”
We are fortunate to have two State representatives, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assembly member Das Williams, who acted swiftly in calling a hearing on this matter. This spill should be a wake-up call to Ventura. With all that we know, much more action should be taken to ensure that our residents and environment are safe.