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The oil spill devastating marine life on the Orange County coast has become a centerpoint of ecological activists throughout the United States. Sadly, this is another tragic oil spill with the all-too-familiar story of offshore drilling done in a cheap and careless way. Caution was thrown to the wind in order to achieve higher profits, and as always, the ocean’s ecosystem is now paying the price. These companies should be heavily restricted in their search for oil to help protect the fragile ecosystem of our oceans and coasts, and alternative fuels must be considered to prevent future spills. 

144,000 gallons of oil were spilled from Amplify Energy, and the resulting damage has closed off miles of Huntington and Laguna Beach. The clean up efforts from both the government agencies and the energy company will have to be hasty and well executed if the wetlands have any chance to return to a semi-healthy state. The state of the ecosystem will depend solely on the continuous purging of the oil from the beaches and water. Fortunately, there are penalties for the procrastination of cleanup efforts. For every day the clean up is not addressed, the discharger is fined up to $25,000.

There has been a ceaseless pattern of offshore drilling at the forefront of ecological disasters. It is the contemptuous and careless attitude of companies like Amplify Energy that lead to these events. There has been a pattern of negligence recorded since the 1969 oil well blowout in Santa Barbara, California. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there have been 44 oil spills accounting for over 420,000 gallons of oil staining the waters of our oceans. Every step of offshore drilling is harmful to the environment and the creatures that dwell among it. Surveyors must use seismic activity in order to “responsibly” gauge the surroundings for a development program. Unfortunately, these seismic blasts disturb marine life in destructive ways. For instance, many breeding lagoons for gray whales can be disturbed and lead to dwindling numbers in births. Research from Duke University’s Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab has drawn from over 20 years of data relaying information on seismic airguns in the water. According to these studies, as many as 138,000 whales and dolphins have been injured in the prospect for oil. Drilling and searching for these fossil fuels is detrimental to ocean habitats. The research speaks for itself when considering marine life.

In this case, the perpetrator is Amplify Energy. However, there are a few companies who should be held accountable for offshore drilling projects that have either gone wrong or have left devastating effects on the environment from just looking for oil. Although Amplify Energy is possibly facing a class-action lawsuit in light of these events, it is being filed by a Southern California resident rather than the state. These spills are the sole responsibility of these negligent, unchecked corporations that only have profit in mind. In response to this disaster, Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency to address the spill and its clean up efforts. The state has moved to use workers from the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response to start cleanup efforts, but the damage is already being done.

When oil is introduced to the ocean, its toxicity has disastrous effects on the plants, animals and overall habitat of that ecosystem. Some examples on the NOAA website are how oil can coat the wings of a bird and render it flightless and how fouling can cause hypothermia in sea otters if it coats their fur as it strips away the insulating properties of sea mammals on their coats if introduced. These kinds of human interventions can often impact their chances of survivability.

Oil spills are incredibly dangerous to not just marine life and flora, but to people as well. It is hard to find volunteer work that is more hands-on; however, there are a great number of things you can do to help. There is a volunteer helpline available run by the British multinational oil and gas company to help pre-clean beaches for professionals to more efficiently assist animals and habitat. There is also the route of administrative work or maintaining equipment. If you can’t help out in person, there are options to donate to an Oil Spill Emergency Response Fund through the Bolsa Chica charity. This is the only earth we have, and it’s our job to ensure we pass it down better than we found it to the next generation.