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California oil spill closes beaches and renews call for drilling ban

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In response to a question, Mr Willsher suggested that an anchor might have hit the pipeline. He said workers at his company saw the oil shine for the first time on Saturday morning and began work to plug the leak. But some energy experts said the company should have known about the leak before oil showed up, because gauges monitoring pressure in the pipeline should have alerted officials.

US Coast Guard Captain Rebecca Ore said oil had been found from Huntington Beach to Laguna Beach and the agency helped contain the spill with skimmers. The agency conducted flights and looked at models to determine the direction of the oil, which was heading south.

Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery said Monday “very little oil” made landfall. “I think the worst — and I say this cautiously — may be over.”

Amplify announced in August that it was operating a new pipeline designed to improve production and protect against leaks. An increase in production by its California subsidiary, Beta Offshore, is set to begin in September.

Ed Hirs, a professor of finance at the University of Houston and an oil transportation expert, said he didn’t think the pipeline operation had anything to do with the leak. He said it appeared that the leak was in a separate transport pipeline that runs along the seabed.

“What bothers me is that the leak went undetected for so long,” Mr Hirs said. “The company should have detected the pressure loss quickly,” he added. “They’ve learned that they can’t be so lax.”

Beta Offshore had a 2,000-gallon spill from a pipeline between the two platforms, Eureka and Elly, in 1999, for which the operator was fined $48,000, according to Bill Caram, executive director of Pipeline Safety Trust, a nonprofit group in Bellingham. Wash. Beta Offshore also had four federal violations or warnings from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a federal agency that is part of the Transportation Department, between 2008 and 2010, related to welding, valves and risk management procedures.

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