Pipeline owner missed dead­line

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Javier Pan­zar javier.pan­zar@latimes.com Twit­ter: @javier­pan­zar

SANTA BAR­BARA — The Texas owner of the crude oil pipeline that rup­tured along the Santa Bar­bara County coast last month did not meet state guide­lines for re­port­ing an oil spill, a top state of­fi­cial said at an over­sight hear­ing Fri­day.

The joint hear­ing of two leg­isla­tive com­mit­tees fo­cused on the re­sponse to the May 19 spill and the ini­tial hours af­ter the pipe owned by Plains All Amer­i­can Pipeline burst. Law­mak­ers also wanted to know why the com­pany was un­aware of cor­ro­sion in its pipeline.

Plains em­ploy­ees did not re­port the spill to state of­fi­cials un­til 2: 54 p. m. on May 19, about an hour and a half af­ter com­pany of­fi­cials said they con­firmed a Plains pipeline was re­spon­si­ble for spilling thou­sands of gal­lons of oil along the coast.

Mark S. Ghi­lar­ducci, di­rec­tor of the Gover­nor’s Off ice of Emer­gency Ser­vices, said the com­pany failed to meet the state dead­line to re­port such a spill within 30 min­utes.

Ghi­lar­ducci said he did not know what penal­ties Plains would face as a re­sult of the missed dead­line.

State Atty. Gen. Ka­mala Harris’ of­fice is still con­duct­ing crim­i­nal and civil in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the spill, a spokes­woman said Fri­day.

Ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments re­leased this week, Plains em­ploy­ees in Bak­ers­field who were re­spon­si­ble for alert­ing fed­eral reg­u­la­tors to the spill were un­able to con­tact em­ploy­ees on the ground near the rup­tured pipeline.

In a let­ter to law­mak­ers, the com­pany said work­ers in the f ield were “busy deal­ing with the im­me­di­ate de­mands and dis­trac­tions.”

At the hear­ing Fri­day, state Sen. Han­nah- Beth Jack­son ( D- Santa Bar­bara) also crit­i­cized Pa­trick Hodgins, di­rec­tor of safety and se­cu­rity for Plains All Amer­i­can Pipeline, for not ex­plain­ing why the rup­tured pipe had cor­roded down to 1/ 16th of an inch where it broke.

Hodgins would not ac­knowl­edge or dis­cuss fed­eral reg­u­la­tors’ pre­lim­i­nary find­ings that the pipeline had cor­roded sig­nif­i­cantly. He said he would com­ment on the pipeline only af­ter a fi­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the fed­eral Pipeline and Haz­ardous Ma­te­ri­als Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion de­ter­mined the ex­act cause of the spill.

“Why do I know more about this than you do?” Jack­son said.

“That is a good ques­tion,” Hodgins said, draw­ing laughs from the au­di­ence at the Santa Bar­bara County Board of Su­per­vi­sors.

Jack­son, chair­woman of a new Se­nate se­lect com­mit­tee on the oil spill, said the mem­bers were “frus­trated” with Hodgins’ “dodge around.”

Hodgins said he could not pro­vide an­swers to some ques­tions be­cause of the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion by fed­eral pipeline reg­u­la­tors.

When asked to de­tail past cor­ro­sion test re­sults for the rup­tured pipeline, Hodgins said he did not have the data on hand.

“It seems like you didn’t come very well- pre­pared to an­swer ques­tions,” said Assem­bly­man Mark Stone ( DMon­terey Bay).

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