The McGrath Lake oil spill in Ventura County stimulated public concern regarding crude oil gathering pipeline safety. This December 22, 1993 incident occurred from a crude oil shipping line. This spill released an estimated 2,200 barrels (42 gallons = 1 barrel) of crude oil. This oil surfaced and flowed another 1,200 feet into McGrath Lake. The lake is part of a tidal wetland within a large coastal dune system.

One result of this incident was the passage of California Assembly Bill 3261 (O’Connell) as codified in California Government Code Section 51015.05 in 1994. This bill required the California State Fire Marshal (CSFM):

  • establish and maintain centralized database containing specific information and data (pipeline locations, ownership, age, inspection history, etc.) regarding certain crude oil pipelines,

  • conduct a study of the fitness and safety of these crude oil pipelines, and

  • investigate incentive options that would encourage pipeline replacement or improvements, including, but not limited to, a review of existing regulatory, permit, and environmental impact report requirements and other existing public policies that could act as barriers to the replacement or improvement of these pipelines.

The following pipelines were included in the data base and study:

  • pipelines for the transportation of crude oil that operate at gravity or at a stress level of 20% or less of the specified minimum yield strength of the pipe; and,

  • pipelines for the transportation of petroleum (crude oil) in onshore gathering lines located in rural areas.

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