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The Harsh Reality of Oil Spills

— October 28, 2021

Economic impacts can last for years due to the negative impacts of the public perceptions on the oil spill as well as the safety of the area. 

On October 2, 2021, an oil pipeline off the coast of Orange County spilled at least 144,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean from Huntington Beach to Newport Beach. The leak occurred three miles off the coast of Newport Beach and involved the failure of a 17.5-mile-long oil pipeline. The oil pipeline was intact as of October 2020 according to the routine survey conducted at that time. California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Orange County to support the protection of the environment and public’s health. 

How Common Are Oil Spills in the U.S?

Major oil spills aren’t uncommon in the United States as thousands of oil spills occur every year, most being small in size. When the oil rig operated by BP exploded in April of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, many rig workers were injured or lost their lives. It was the largest oil spill in history and caused devastation to rig workers’ families lives and marine life. Many businesses in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama were directly affected by the oil spill, causing financial disaster to local businesses. As the oil spread, wetlands, businesses, people, and animals were exposed to unsafe toxic environments. Even small oil spills can cause major environmental and economic impact depending on the season, type of oil, location, and environment. 

Common Industries Affected By Oil Spills

Contaminated coastal areas off the coast of Southern California popular beaches can cause serious economic losses to industries and individuals who are depended on the coastal assets. Common businesses and industries affected by oil spills include:


The most at-risk businesses are those who rely strictly on tourism and have no other alternative means of income.Although beaches are reopening in the area, it could be years until tourism comes back to the area. With the holiday season slowly approaching, many tourists may find themselves booking holidays in other locations to avoid the effects of the oil spill. For example, luxury resorts or travel services may be solely dependent on tourists for their income, and could be directly impacted by the oil spill for months. 


Oil spills can cause extreme damage to fisheries, as contamination can impact their business activities and business sites. There are many factors that determine the economic impact of an oil spill on a fishing company. These include: where the oil spill happened, how the oil spill has directly impacted the company, and the type of fishing activity.

Beaches, Parks Closed after a Toxic Oil Spill Near Portage
Photo by Clay Knight on Unsplash

If your businesses or property has been affected due to the recent oil spill off the coast of California, it is important to consult with an experienced Huntington Beach oil spill attorney who can present you with the best legal options on how to move forward with your case. 

How Long Will Economic Impacts Exist?

There is no way to predict how long economic impacts will last after an oil spill. Physical impacts including the coastal areas, marine life, and environment will continue until clean up efforts have removed most of the oil. Economic impacts can last for years due to the negative impacts of the public perceptions on the oil spill as well as the safety of the area. 

Who Pays for Recovery Efforts After an Oil Spill? 

The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) was implemented in 1990 and helped the Environmental Protection Program prevent and respond to disastrous oil spills. Under the OPA, the responsibility of the oil spill falls on the owner and/or operator of the facility. They are liable for the costs of containment, cleanup, and damages that have resulted from the oil spill. If the party who is responsible refuses to pay for the clean up or is unknown, funds from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) are used to cover the cost of cleanup and damages endured. Distributed by the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center, the OSLTF can provide up to $1 billion for an oil spill incident. 

How to Help Current Recovery Efforts 

Below are a list of organizations to donate to or volunteer to help the coastal areas affected by the Orange County Oil Spill.

The Huntington Beach Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center (WWCC)

The Surfrider Foundation

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

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