Oil Spill Promises to Stiffen Resistance to Pipeline

Times Staff Writer

Monday’s oil spill in Granada Hills will jeopardize plans by an oil consortium to run a 130-mile pipeline from northern fields to South Bay refineries, supporters and opponents of the project said Friday.

State, county and city officials predicted that the rupture of a corroded, 10-inch Mobil Oil Co. pipeline, which caused two traffic accidents and polluted a 22-mile stretch of Los Angeles waterways, will prompt intense opposition to the proposed Angeles Pipeline.

Mobil Oil spokeswoman Linda Agens said an estimate of crude lost in Monday’s spill from the 22-year-old pipeline has risen from 4,000 to 29,000 gallons.

The Angeles Pipeline, a joint venture of Atlantic Richfield Co., Chevron Corp., Shell Oil Co., and Texaco Inc., would funnel 330,000 barrels of crude daily through a 30-inch pipeline from San Joaquin Valley and Santa Barbara oil fields.


Path Through Valley

The pipeline would run beneath streets in the San Fernando Valley and extend south through Los Angeles County to five South Bay refineries.

“When I saw the Granada Hills thing on the news, I thought, ‘We’ve got a problem,’ said T. W. Shettler, environmental and permit manager for the consortium. “There’s a perception all of a sudden that crude-oil pipelines are not safe.”

Shettler said he expects heated debate when the next in a series of public forums on the project is held later this month. The next forum is scheduled April 29 at George Washington Elementary School in Burbank. Shettler also predicted long and perhaps costly delays when the consortium seeks the necessary permits from the numerous governmental agencies along the proposed route.


“They’re going to say, ‘Hey, look what happened,’ and ‘how can you tell the public it’s safe when they know what happened,’ ” he said. “It will come up, and I’m going to have an answer. I just don’t know what it is, yet.

“We’re certainly not going to design it to fail. We’re not going to design it to leak.”

Renewed Concerns

Dan Wolf, press secretary to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, said the spill “renewed concerns the supervisor already had about the project.” Hahn has asked the county Flood Control District to include an account of the Granada Hills spill in its environmental impact report on the Angeles Pipeline.


“We have seen a dramatic and disturbing example of what can happen when oil pipelines are permitted to be built in our communities,” Hahn said. “We are lucky it wasn’t worse.”

Hahn, noting that the Angeles Pipeline would be three times the diameter of the broken Mobil Oil pipe, said, “The proposed pipeline that would cut north and south through Los Angeles County would potentially pose an even greater danger, as hundreds of thousand of gallons of heated, heavy crude oil would be rushing under our streets seven days a week. I am very concerned about the environmental safety questions.”

When crude oil is piped, it is heated so that it will flow more easily.

City Councilman Hal Bernson, who also requested a report on the spill from the city fire and public works departments, said he would be surprised if the incident did not prompt intense opposition to the new pipeline project.


One of two routes proposed by the consortium would run the pipeline south along Foothill, Glen Oaks and Los Feliz boulevards and next to Western Avenue, Hawthorne Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue in the South Bay. An alternative, westerly route under consideration would run a section of the pipeline along Balboa and Sepulveda boulevards.

Balboa Boulevard runs next to Bull Creek, which was severely polluted when the Mobil Oil pipeline ruptured late Monday beneath Woodley Avenue near Nanette Drive, spilling crude into storm drains that empty into the creek.

Work crews were unable to keep the oil from flowing into the Los Angeles River at the Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area and finally headed off the crude Tuesday afternoon near Dodger Stadium, about 22 miles from the break.

Effect on Wildlife


Lt. Tim Goffa of the State Department of Fish and Game said about 20 ducks coated with crude were recovered from the creek and river. By Friday, two of them had died, he said.

Rob Glushon, president of the city’s Environmental Quality Board, said a similar break in the Angeles Pipeline would be more harmful to wildlife because the type of crude generated from the Santa Barbara offshore wells has a heavier concentration of sulfur and of potentially toxic metals.

“I think what happened in Granada Hills kills the westerly alternative route, and it also damages the viability of the entire project,” Glushon said. “That was a minor spill, which still went 22 miles and destroyed some wildlife. If the same thing happened with a 30-inch pipe and the more toxic crude, the results would be disastrous. The damage to residents, businesses and parklands would be irreparable,” he said.

Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda) also is opposed to the westerly route along Balboa because of the nearby wildlife and the number of homes in the area, said a spokeswoman.


Improved Technology

Ken Steele, deputy director for the California Department of Transportation, the state agency monitoring the projected Angeles Pipeline, said pipeline construction has improved since the Mobil line was installed. “There are wrappings to prevent corrosion, and the weldings in the seams are much stronger than they were 25 years ago,” he said.

But Steele said the Granada Hills break “will increase the difficulty for the project because it does prove that these things do happen and have happened.”

Steele said state, county and municipal governments have various regulations on how often pipelines should be inspected, depending on the amount of pressure on the line and the substance flowing through it.


“But, generally, they’re inspected every three to five years,” he said.

Costly Cleanup

Mobil spokeswoman Agens said the company is paying International Technology of Bakersfield to clean up the spill. A spokesman for the firm said the job would cost “hundreds of thousands, at least.”

The leak was detected about 7:30 p.m. Monday by paramedics who were called to a traffic accident on Woodley Drive and discovered that the street was slick with oil. Oil gushed from the line for about an hour before it was shut off at its source near Magic Mountain in Valencia, city fire officials said.


A woman and her child who suffered broken bones in the accident have filed a $5-million damage suit against Mobil.

The consortium’s Shettler said of the spill, “If there hadn’t been the car accident and it hadn’t gotten into the river, nobody would have heard about it.”