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California’s Worst Oil Leak in Years May Have Started Months Ago

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(Bloomberg) -- The underwater pipeline that spilled as many as 3,000 barrels of oil off California’s coast may have been dragged by a ship anchor months or even a year ago.

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The growth of marine life around the breach in the Amplify Energy Corp. pipeline indicates that the line was struck a while ago, rather than recently, U.S. Coast Guard officials said Friday. An anchor most likely dragged the pipeline because a 4,000-foot section had been displaced by more than 100 feet.

“I am convinced that the initial event that deflected the pipeline was an anchor strike,” Captain Jason Neubauer, chairman of the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation, said in a press conference. “If there was a small fracture initially, it must not have been leaking a great deal of oil.”

That means that the line may have been cracked and leaking oil months ago, albeit in volumes that were not detected. The pipeline was surveyed by Amplify in October of last year and was found to be normal, meaning investigators must check all ships that could have caused the initial strike since that time. The Coast Guard is also looking into the possible influence of storms earlier this winter and of other anchor strikes on the line since the initial one as contributing to the 13-inch breach in the line that was discovered earlier this week.

The Coast Guard will continue to board vessels as part of the investigation.

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