California regulators are looking at ways to improve inspections after the pipeline explosion

Company responsible for O.C. oil spill gets permission to repair pipeline

The owner of the pipeline that exploded near Santa Barbara last month was given permission to repair the line, state regulators said on Tuesday. The company that owned and operated the pipeline had applied for permission before the state’s oil spill authority began testing it, state regulators said. The state’s oil spill authority was working with the pipeline’s owners to determine the line’s safety and to determine the extent of the damages to the aquifer, but did not find any leaks, said Chris Sgro, the authority’s assistant enforcement director. The line’s owner, Marathon Oil, agreed with the authority’s findings and said it wanted to repair the line, Sgro said. “The pipeline owner will repair the segment that was shut down in April,” Sgro said. “The agency will not grant permission to the pipeline owner to repair the remaining segments that are up for renewal,” said Eric Smith, spokesman for the California Department of Conservation, which oversees oil spill cleanup.

After the explosion that left one dead and seven injured, California officials said they were looking at ways to increase oversight of the hundreds of pipeline and oil company inspection stations around the state. The governor signed legislation this week that will require operators to submit reports on the number of inspections they do and the number of “significant” violations they find. The inspections cover pipeline, vessel, pipeline storage tank and oil industry sites, and the reports will be made available to the public, the governor said. The legislation also requires that operators report on what they are doing to fix problems found in these inspections, and what steps they’ve taken to monitor the results.

“In the case of the Santa Barbara pipeline, the inspector’s report clearly showed that a significant violation was found,” Smith said. “We’re working with the oil industry to make sure they understand there are consequences for significant violations.”

The regulations require operators to make repairs to a pipeline if a significant violation is found, he said. “That requirement was in the law previously and wasn’t a high concern for oil companies, but now it is, and it is the highest priority for us,” Smith said.

The California Department of Conservation lists about 160 inspection stations in the state that are responsible for ensuring the safety of the state’s oil supply and handling environmental regulations such as air quality and water quality

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