California’s attorney general on Monday launched an investigation into the massive oil spill off the state’s coast, saying he would get to the bottom of the environmental disaster “in any way we can.”
Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) vowed to “hold folks accountable” after the spill, which leaked up to 131,000 gallons of crude oil into the waters off the coast of Huntington Beach in Orange County, creating a miles-long oil slick and threatening delicate coastal wetlands. It was the state’s worst oil spill since 2015 and prompted renewed calls to oppose offshore drilling in the region.
“The oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach is an environmental disaster with far-reaching consequences for our fish and wildlife, for our communities, and for our economy,” Bonta said in a statement Monday. “My office is committed to devoting the people and the resources necessary to ensure this environmental disaster is fully investigated, and we will follow the facts wherever they lead us.”
The Los Angeles Times notes it’s unclear if Bonta’s office will pursue civil or criminal enforcement after the spill. The U.S. Coast Guard and Orange County district attorney’s office are conducting criminal investigations into the matter. The speaker of the California Assembly has also formed a Select Committee to “focus on the causes and potential lapses that led to the spill, as well as the spill’s impact on the environment.”
Investigators said they suspect a ship’s anchor damaged the pipeline, which is owned by the Texas-based Amplify Energy, dragging it across the ocean floor. The Coast Guard added Friday that the strike may have happened months ago, growing worse over time. They also said the spill may have been caused by multiple strikes.
Authorities have said they plan to investigate how Amplify took care of the aging pipeline, and if the company should have responded quicker to the leak. The Orange County district attorney also called for all pipelines off the county’s coast to be inspected in the coming months to ensure there are no further disasters.
The spill has prompted local lawmakers to renew calls the state abandon offshore drilling and refocus on clean energy sources. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said last week fossil fuel drilling “is part of our past, vowing to oppose any new drilling in federal waters along the California coastline.
Clean-up crews have collected thousands of gallons of oil from the water over the past week and spent days cleaning up local beaches impacted by the spill. Officials said Huntington Beach would reopen Monday after water quality tests revealed no detectable levels of toxins in the water, although they urged visitors to avoid areas that smell like oil.