Kamala Harris tours site of Refugio State Beach oil spill

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BySid Garcia via KABC logo
Friday, June 5, 2015
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California Attorney General Kamala Harris toured the site of the oil spill at Refugio State Beach Thursday and said criminal charges were possible.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (KABC) -- California Attorney General Kamala Harris got a firsthand look Thursday at the site of the oil spill at Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County. Harris says the oil company operating the pipeline could be facing criminal charges.

"We're here to investigate and determine if there was criminal behavior," Harris said.

Harris' visit comes just a day after a preliminary federal report revealed that the section of pipeline that burst was badly corroded -- a development Harris called "troubling."

Harris says she has teams of lawyers and investigators looking into whether Plains All-American Pipeline could be facing legal action from the state.

"I've assigned both a team of my prosecutors to pursue whatever may exist in terms of potential criminal charges, as well as a team of our civil lawyers to look at any violations of civil law," Harris said.

The state attorney general says she's impressed with the cleanup so far, but pointed out that there's still a lot of work left to do.

"There is still damage that is obvious and apparent. One of the challenges for the cleanup is the tar that is on the boulders, and so there's an assessment that is being done about how to clean up this environment in a way that will not damage the natural species that exist in this environment, and also do the work of making sure that it will not present an ongoing health risk to human beings," Harris said.

Refugio and El Capitan state beaches remain closed. A state park official says they've canceled camp reservations through June 25.

"I'm frustrated with the fact that the public doesn't have an opportunity to come and recreate in this wonderful park, as well as El Capitan State Beach right down the coast," said Richard Rozelle, superintendent of state parks and beaches in the area.