March 20, 2023
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Gov. Jerry Brown signs oil pipeline safety bills


Workers clean up the Refugio oil spill.

Workers clean up the Refugio oil spill.


Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on Oct. 8 that requires the California Fire Marshal to review oil pipeline conditions every year, rather than every two years or more.

Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline performed an inspection of its Line 901 about two weeks before May 19’s Refugio oil spill. But it was too little, too late.

If Line 901 underwent annual inspections, officials say, the spill that soiled the Gaviota coast may have been prevented. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration found that the pipeline was eroded down to 1/16th of an inch, the administration said.

“I do believe that if the pipeline that ruptured had been inspected annually, the corrosion would have been detected and we would’ve been able to prevent the spill,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, the author of SB 295.

California Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover said that if Line 901 was under the state’s jurisdiction, it would’ve been classified as “high-risk,” been inspected more frequently and had more oversight.

“There needs to be a change of law that the pipeline is designated as intrastate so it is enforceable by our program,” Hoover said in a June meeting. “California is the best practice, not federal.”

Hoover got her wish.

Plains’ inspection in 2012 didn’t raise enough alarm to trigger action. It didn’t get the results of the inspection it performed in May soon enough to act, the company said.

The governor also signed Jackson’s SB 414, which would allegedly make oil spill response faster and more effective.

The bill mandates that the Office of Spill Prevention and Response reports to the legislature on how to best use commercial fishing vessels and crews in response to an oil spill, requires that OSPR better communicates oil spill efforts and directs OSPR to study and use the best technology in oil spill responses.

The governor also signed AB 864, authored by Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara. It requires pipelines in environmentally and ecologically sensitive areas along the coast to use the best technology, such as leak detection systems and automatic shutoff valves.

Line 901 did not have an automatic shutoff valve.

• Contact Alex Kacik at