Federal transportation investigators stated that the pipe was broken open and nearly a mile-long section pulled along the ocean floor. This could have been caused by an anchor that connected to the pipeline, which may have caused a partial tear.
Martyn Willsher (CEO of Amplify Energy Corp.), who oversees the operation of the pipeline, stated that "the pipeline has been essentially pulled like a string." It is now 105 feet (32 m) wide at its widest point from the original location.
As they travel into the huge Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, large cargo ships often cross the pipeline. From loading to unloading, they receive coordinates that point them to the location where they can anchor.
Cargo ships can still move even when they are anchored due to shifting tides and winds. Steven Browne, a professor at California State University Maritime Academy, stated that if a ship does not properly anchor on the ocean floor, these forces of nature can push the ship along the bottom and possibly catch anything.
Large ships have anchors that can be as heavy as 10 tons and are connected to hundreds of feet long steel chains. Browne stated that any anchor that is fouled will be taken with it.
The ocean off Huntington Beach was flooded with heavy crude oil, totaling 126,000 gallons (572.807 liters). It washed up on miles of beaches and into a marshland.
It is possible that the beaches will remain closed for several weeks, which could be a significant hit to the local economy. The area's coastal fisheries are closed to recreational and commercial fishing. Animal rescuers were pleasantly surprised to see few oily birds on the shore.
Tuesday's time of the incident was not known. Investigators have no evidence that any particular ship was involved.
Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter (Democrat) said that the House Natural Resources Committee would investigate the incident.
Porter, who is from a district located a few miles away from the spillage area, said, "We will make sure we have answers as how it happened and that we hold the responsible party responsible accountable."
Coast Guard officials supported their decision to wait until Saturday morning to investigate the possible spillage first reported Friday by a commercial vessel near a group of boats anchored off Huntington Beach.
This sighting was confirmed by a National Response Center report at 2:06 AM Saturday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The report stated that satellite images indicated the strong possibility of an oil spillage.
Residents of Newport Beach also complained about Friday night's strong petroleum stench, and police issued a public notice.
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Brian Penoyer said that although he was alerted by a "good Samaritan", the Coast Guard did not have sufficient evidence to confirm the sheen. He also stated that the Coast Guard was hindered in his efforts to find the spilled oil by darkness and a lack technology.
Coast Guard Capt. Rebecca Ore later refuted that account. Penoyer later stated that the Coast Guard didn't broadcast any information to oil platforms or ships.
Penoyer stated that oil sheens were quite common in major seaports.
Penoyer stated, "In hindsight it seems obvious, however, they didn't know at the time."
Federal pipeline safety investigators dated the incident at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday. They also reported that an alarm was triggered in the control room of Amplify's offshore oil rig. The alarm indicated that the pressure in the pipeline had dropped, which could indicate a leak.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration stated that the pipeline was turned off at 6:01 AM Saturday.
Willsher said that the company wasn't aware of the spillage until it noticed a sheen in the water at 8:09 AM.
According to PHMSA, the pipeline company didn't report the spillage until Saturday at 8:55 a.m. (based on a state report) or at 9:07 a.m. The Coast Guard was on the water for about two hours when the spillage was discovered by Amplify.
According to the company's spill response plan, a spill should be reported immediately. In the past, criminal charges were brought against companies that failed to immediately notify federal or state officials about a spillage.
At a news conference Gov Gavin Newsom reiterated his call for the United States to get out of oil. Last year, Newsom signed an executive order prohibiting the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles until 2035.
"It's high time to stop allowing this to become part of our future. He said that this was part of our history from Bolsa Chica State beach, where he was joined to discuss the spillage by federal, state, and local officials.
An AP videojournalist saw no oil during a two-hour boat trip off Huntington Beach's coast. Pelicans, other seabirds and four dolphins floated by the boat in calm waters.
Numerous cargo vessels were seen anchoring offshore, sharing space and access with around a dozen oil platforms. Numerous workers dressed in white walked along the shoreline, removing oil deposits.
Investigators stated that the break in line took place approximately 5 miles offshore at a depth about 98 feet (30 metres). These findings were part of an order by the Department of Transportation, which prevented the company from restarting its pipeline without thorough inspections and testing.
The investigators were not identified in the order. Agency officials also did not respond immediately to a request for comment.