External corrosion on an oil pipeline was the root cause of a leak that spilled more than 140,000 gallons of crude on the Santa Barbara coast in May, federal regulators reported.
The spill occurred after pumps on the Plains All American Pipeline were shut down and restarted, sending a larger volume of oil surging through the 2-foot-wide pipe at higher pressure, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said in preliminary findings. After the leak occurred, however, and plunging pressure in the pipeline triggered an alarm, it wasn’t shut down for more than 30 minutes. Plains wouldn’t comment on Wednesday’s report because of ongoing investigations of the spill, a spokeswoman said. Local, state and federal prosecutors are probing the spill and regulators could issue fines against the Texas-based company.