Refugio oil spill may have been costlier, bigger than projected

A Plains All American Pipeline oil spill off the Santa Barbara County coast this year may have been bigger and costlier than originally expected, the company said in its quarterly earnings update Wednesday.

The May 19 spill could cost the Texas company as much as $257 million in response and cleanup costs, assessments and fines, and legal settlements, the company stated. Also, as many as 143,000 gallons of crude may have been spilled when the line ruptured, not 101,000 gallons, as Plains originally estimated.

The company did not provide a new estimate on how much of that oil ended up in the Pacific; the original estimate was 21,000 gallons.

The spill occurred when a corroded section of a 10.6-mile pipeline that runs parallel to U.S. 101 ruptured, sending crude flowing down a culvert to the ocean.

Oil heavily coated a stretch of the Gaviota coast and forced the closure of Refugio and El Capitan state beaches. El Capitan reopened in June.

Small tar balls from the spill made their way as far south as Redondo Beach in Los Angeles County.

Hundreds of sea birds and mammals, many coated in crude, washed up in the spill area in the weeks following the spill.

The company refined its estimate after flushing 26,500 barrels of oil (or 1.1 million gallons) from the pipeline and realized its initial calculation may have been too low.

Plains has tapped an outside party to analyze the company’s data to get a more precise estimate of the spill’s total, according to Tuesday’s update.

Time staff writer Javier Panzar contributed to this report.

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