Officials began to clean up a massive oil spill Friday that dumped nearly 800,000 gallons of oil and water into a California canyon, making it larger—if less devastating—than the state's last two major oil spills. The newly revealed spill has been flowing off and on since May and has again stopped, Chevron spokeswoman Veronica Flores-Paniagua said. She and California officials said the spill is not near any waterway and has not significantly affected wildlife. The last flow was Tuesday, the AP reports. Chevron reported that 794,000 gallons of oil and water have leaked out of the ground where it uses steam injection to extract oil in the large Cymric Oil Field about 35 miles west of Bakersfield. The steam softens the thick crude so it can flow more readily and is a different process from fracking, which breaks up underground layers of rock.
The state has issued Chevron a notice of violation ordering it to stop steam injections around the spill. The company also increased its production of oil from wells in the area. Both actions are intended to relieve underground pressure that may be forcing the mix of oil and water to the surface. Chevron will pay for the cleanup, though the state will oversee the process, said Steve Gonzalez, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention and Response. The cleanup and the investigation into what caused the oil flow were somewhat delayed as officials ensured there are no dangerous fumes or sinkholes that could trap workers or heavy equipment, he said. (Environmental groups said the Chevron spill is another sign of weakened regulations under an embattled California agency. (Click here for more.)