TIME Environment

Winds and Choppy Seas Slow Cleanup of California Oil Spill

More than 9,000 gallons had been cleaned up as of Thursday

(GOLETA, Calif.)—Weather has slowed cleanup efforts at the site of an oil spill that fouled a California shoreline.

The National Weather Service says gusty winds are whipping up waves as high as 4 feet early Friday off Santa Barbara County. Several days of calm seas had helped crews.

A small watercraft advisory was issued overnight and Santa Barbara news station KEYT-TV says oil skimming vessels were brought in late Thursday because of bad weather.

Crews have yet to excavate the section of pipeline that broke Tuesday, spilling an estimated 105,000 gallons of crude. About 21,000 gallons is believed to have made it to the sea and split into slicks that stretched 9 miles along the coast.

As of Thursday, more than 9,000 gallons had been raked, skimmed and vacuumed up.

TIME Environment

Thousands of Gallons of Oil Raked From California Coast After Spill

Up to 105,000 gallons may have leaked from a ruptured pipeline

(GOLETA, Calif.)—More than 7,700 gallons of oil has been raked, skimmed and vacuumed from a spill that stretched across 9 miles of California coast, just a fraction of the sticky, stinking goo that escaped from a broken pipeline, officials said.

Up to 105,000 gallons may have leaked from the ruptured pipeline Tuesday, and up to 21,000 gallons reached the sea just north of Santa Barbara, according to estimates. The environmental impact still is being assessed, but so far there is no evidence of widespread harm to birds and sea life.

The early toll on wildlife included two oil-covered pelicans, officials said. Biologists counted dead fish and crustaceans along sandy beaches and rocky shores.

The spill occurred along a long, rustic coast that forms the northern boundary of the Santa Barbara Channel, home to a rich array of sea life. Whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals, sea otters and birds such as pelicans live along the channel between the mainland and the Channel Islands, five of which are a national park surrounded by waters declared a national marine sanctuary.

Workers in protective suits have shoveled black sludge off beaches, and boats towed booms into place to corral two oil slicks. The cleanup effort continued through the night and additional crew members and boats came out early Thursday, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Jonathan McCormick said.

They could get help from expected light winds and calm seas, said Dr. Sean Anderson, an environmental scientist at California State University, Channel Islands.

“When the water’s choppy, the response gets complicated. But since the water’s nice and flat, the oil sticks together and it’s easier to spot and easier to pick up,” he said.

Regulators and workers with Plains All American Pipeline LP, which runs the pipeline, aim to begin excavating the pipe Thursday to get their first look at the breach.

The company’s chief executive visited the spill site Wednesday and apologized.

“We deeply, deeply regret that this incident has occurred at all,” Chairman and CEO Greg L. Armstrong said at a news conference. “We apologize for the damage that it’s done to the wildlife and to the environment.”

Crude was flowing through the pipe at 54,600 gallons an hour during the leak, the company said. Company officials didn’t say how long it leaked before it was discovered and shut down or discuss how fast the oil escaped.

Federal regulators from the Department of Transportation, which oversees oil pipeline safety, investigated the leak’s cause, the pipe’s condition and the potential violations.

The 24-inch pipe built in 1991 had no previous problems and was thoroughly inspected in 2012, according to the company. The pipe underwent similar tests about two weeks ago, though the results had not been analyzed yet.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the company accumulated 175 safety and maintenance infractions since 2006, according to federal records. The infractions involved pump failure, equipment malfunction, pipeline corrosion and operator error. The newspaper said a Plains Pipeline spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its regulatory record.

There was no estimate on the cost of the cleanup or how long it might take.

A combination of soiled beaches and the pungent stench of petroleum led officials to close popular campgrounds Refugio State Beach and El Capitan State Beach over the Memorial Day weekend.

Still, tourists pulled off the Pacific Coast Highway to eye the disaster from overlooking bluffs.

“It smells like what they use to pave the roads,” said Fan Yang, of Indianapolis, who was hoping to find cleaner beaches in Santa Barbara, about 20 miles away. “I’m sad for the birds — if they lose their habitat.”

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife closed fishing and shellfish harvesting for a mile east and west of Refugio beach and deployed booms to protect the nesting and foraging habitat of the snowy plover and the least tern, both endangered shore birds.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday night declared a state of emergency, a move that frees up additional state funding to help with the cleanup.

The coastline was the scene of a much larger spill in 1969 — the largest in U.S. waters at the time — that is credited with giving rise to the American environmental movement.

Environmental groups used the spill as a new opportunity to take a shot at fossil fuels and remind people of the area’s notoriety with oil spills.

“Big Oil comes with big risks — from drilling to delivery,” said Bob Deans, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Santa Barbara learned that lesson over 40 years ago when offshore drilling led to disaster.”

Large offshore rigs still dot the horizon off the coast, pumping crude to shore and small amounts of tar from natural seepage regularly show up on beaches.

TIME Education

What Educators Can Learn About a Southeast L.A. Turnaround

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Getty Images

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

The addition of a bold college readiness program transformed a struggling high school into an example of high academic achievement

Bell Gardens High School in east Los Angeles County was a sorry mess when science teacher Liz Lowe arrived in 1989. More than 3,000 students crowded into school buildings surrounding a concrete quadrangle with patches of grass and some trees. Expectations were low. Not much learning was done.

“It hurt my soul that here were these wonderful students who were very, very capable, but they were expected to be the working poor,” Lowe recalled.

Today, that community is still poor and ethnically isolated. Bell Gardens High has a student body that is 99 percent Latino. According to the 2010 census, the education level of its students’ parents was the lowest of any community of similar size in the state. The median household annual income was slightly more than $30,000.

Yet something unexpected has happened to the level of learning at the school. Bell Gardens High’s Academic Performance Index score, the 1,000-point scale that was used by California to measure test score success, has gone from 469 in 1999 to 704 in 2013 (the latest reported year). The school was ranked in the top 7 percent of all U.S. schools on the 2015 America’s Most Challenging High Schools list, a measure of college-level test participation I put out each year for The Washington Post.

Bell Gardens educators and parents agree that a program called AVID, short for Advancement Via Individual Determination, has much to do with the transformation.

Non-profit AVID (pronounced like the word that means “eager”) is the largest college readiness program in the country. Its success has much to do with unusually effective teacher training and a tutoring system that goes deeper than any I have ever seen.

AVID began in 1980 when Mary Catherine Swanson, the head of the English department at Clairemont High School in northern San Diego, decided to experiment with 32 low-income students coming to her suburban school as part of a busing program. Many teachers at her school said those Latino and black children should be put in remedial classes, but Swanson felt that if they were placed in a daily class that taught study skills and time management and provided tutoring, they could eventually handle even college-level Advanced Placement classes.

As Bell Gardens learned, the program was not easy. AVID classes demanded that students keep their work in order and, even more shocking to American teenagers, required that they learn how to take notes properly and do so in all of their courses. The tutoring was even more of a challenge.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, tutors, usually college students, would arrive to help students with homework questions that stumped them. The tutors did not follow the usual practice of telling tutees where they went wrong. Instead they trained the students to ask questions of whomever was discussing a particular difficulty, to help think through the problem. It took weeks, sometimes months, to get the hang of it.

Lowe, now the AVID coordinator at Bell Gardens, in 1994 was the first teacher at the school to get the one-week AVID training course. But it took three years for Bell Gardens to start its program. Juan Herrera, now the school’s principal, was then the school’s state and federal project director. He was very taken with the AVID emphasis on recruiting average low-income students. His father had been a janitor, his mother a seamstress. Kids like him tended to be left out, he thought, even though they would have benefited from an extra push.

State and district backing for the program has been helpful. Bell Gardens has about $115,000 for tutors this year. Its AVID program grew from 29 ninth graders in 1997 to 566 students, about 16 percent of the total school enrollment this year. It became so successful maintaining standards that it achieved National Demonstration School status, a designation given to only two percent of AVID schools.

Mario Martin del Campo, a former Bell Garden AVID student who became an AVID tutor, said he noticed at California State University, Northridge, where he was an English major, that students without AVID experience often gave up. They’d just say, “I don’t get it.” By contrast, del Campo said, his reaction to a difficult college assignment would be “I don’t know how to do it but I’m going to try it and see how far I get.”

The AVID classes make Bell Gardens High School a very different place from what it was in 1989. Educators like Lowe and Herrera think more schools stuck in poverty could make the same transition, if they are willing to fight for the money and make it extremely difficult for their kids to give up on themselves.

Jay Mathews, a Washington Post columnist, is the author of Question Everything: The Rise of AVID as America’s Largest College Readiness Program. He wrote this for “Reimagining California,” a partnership of the California Endowment and Zócalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Environment

See a Massive Oil Slick in the Pacific Ocean After Spill

21,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean off the Santa Barbara County coast on Tuesday after an underground pipeline ruptured. The oil slick spread to at least 9 miles long by Wednesday afternoon

MONEY Autos

Why Your Toyota Prius Could Make You a Theft Target

JAPAN-AUTO-TOYOTA
KAZUHIRO NOGI—AFP/Getty Images An employee fixes a main battery of the hybrid system in Toyota Motor's Prius.

Hint: A Tesla Model S driver wouldn't have this problem.

Hybrid cars are increasingly the target of theft, thanks to lightweight batteries that are easy to steal—at least for thieves who know what they’re doing.

Toyota Prius drivers in San Francisco seem to be getting the worst of it, a California ABC affiliate reports, with several thefts across the city in recent months.

Though there’s a serious risk of electrocution, thieves in the area have succeeded in quickly cutting cables attached to the 200-volt batteries, then removing them within about 20 minutes.

Prius batteries can go for as much as $1,000 on Craigslist, a tidy profit given the speed of the job.

Unfortunately for Prius drivers, replacing a stolen battery can cost about $3,000—and once you account for the cost of other repairs, like replacing broken windows, the final bill could be as high as $10,000. Buying a used battery online might be cheaper, but then you can’t be sure of just how used it is (or whether it was come by honestly).

Despite the risks involved, what makes the theft relatively easy is portability: The battery in the Prius weighs only about 150 pounds. Compare that to the Tesla Model S battery, which weighs more than 1,000 pounds.

If you own a Prius, there are a few steps you can take to prevent theft, including replacing the bolts fastening down your battery with tamper-proof ones.

MONEY Gas

Gas is Weirdly Expensive in This One Part of the U.S.

US Gas Prices Rise For 35 Consecutive Days
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Gas prices nearing $6.00 on March 3, 2015 in Sausalito, California.

It could put a damper on your summer road trip.

West Coast drivers might be feeling like they’ve been left out of the cheap gas boom.

Despite sub-$3 gas all over the rest of the country, gas prices on the coast—and especially in California—have been skyrocketing. West Coast drivers are paying a record 88 cents a gallon more than those on the East Coast, Bloomberg reports. And in Los Angeles, prices have actually nosed above $4.

Why the big difference?

It’s partly that California has recently instituted particularly strict laws limiting greenhouse-gas emissions. This forces gasoline companies to spend more on either pollution permits or the production of lower-carbon fuels—costs that get passed on to drivers.

But it’s also bad luck. Several oil refineries in California and Washington have been out of commission in recent weeks because of explosions, breakdowns, power outages, and repairs.

Check out this gas price heat map from GasBuddy.com, or type in your zip code here to see if you are paying fair prices for the area where you live.

TIME California

Los Angeles Raises Hourly Minimum Wage to $15

As many as 800,000 of the city's workers could benefit

The Los Angeles city council voted on Tuesday to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, up from the current $9, becoming the latest major American city to boost its wage above the federal base of $7.25.

The increase arrives as several cities around the nation enact or propose legislation to address the issue, the Los Angeles Times reports. As many as 800,000 workers in the city could benefit from the approval after months of debate and lobbying, which could push neighboring cities like Santa Monica and Pasadena to follow in Los Angeles’ footsteps.

“Make no mistake,” said council member Paul Krekorian. “Today the city of Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the nation, is leading the nation.”

Los Angeles joins a number of major U.S. cities, including San Francisco and Seattle, that have moved to increase their minimum wages. Several large companies, including Walmart, have also increased their base wages following months of employee protests.

[LAT]

TIME public health

These Are the Healthiest (and Unhealthiest) Cities in America

A jogger runs past the United States Capitol building at sunrise in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013.
Pete Marovich—Bloomberg/Getty Images A jogger runs past the United States Capitol building at sunrise in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013.

West Coast cities make up six of the top 10

For the second year running Washington, D.C., tops the American Fitness Index (AFI) ranking as the healthiest metropolitan area in the U.S.

The nation’s capital can credit an above average access to public infrastructure for the top spot, according to the eighth annual report.

Minneapolis–St.Paul, Minn., came in second and three California metro areas — San Diego, the Bay Area and Sacramento — rounded out the top five.

“Our goal is to provide communities and residents with resources that help them assess, respond and achieve a better, healthier life,” said Walter Thompson, chair of the AFI advisory board, in a press release.

Indianapolis came in last place as it failed to reach the target goal in nearly all of the 32 health indicators measured. Memphis and Oklahoma City also ranked near the bottom.

The AFI used publicly available data points that are measured routinely and can be changed through community effort (so climate cannot be considered a health indicator).

Below you can find a list of the top-10 healthiest metro areas, according to the AFI:

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Minneapolis
  3. San Diego
  4. San Francisco
  5. Sacramento, Calif.
  6. Denver
  7. Portland
  8. Seattle
  9. Boston
  10. San Jose, Calif.
TIME BMW: A Company on the Edge

See Inside BMW’s Secret Design Lab

A rare look at what happens in one of the world's most important research and development centers

For decades, BMW has advertised its vehicles as “the ultimate driving machine.” The meaning of that phrase has started to slip. In an age of connected technology, ultimate driving machines automatically brake for their passengers in emergencies or beam content from mobile phones and tablets as much as they may accelerate quickly or handle nimbly.

That puts BMW, the world’s top-selling premium automaker by sales volume, in a difficult position. It must maintain its reputation for driving dynamics while also catering to changing consumer tastes—like better fuel efficiency and more advanced technology. And it is trying to do so with competitors like Audi and Mercedes-Benz nipping at its heals. Brands ranging from Toyota to Hyundai are also trying to sell more premium vehicles.

Last year, worldwide BMW sales rose 9.5% to 1.81 million cars, while Mercedes-Benz deliveries jumped 13% to 1.65 million vehicles. Volkswagen-owned Audi posted an 11% increase to 1.74 million cars. Global demand for premium cars has rebounded as the U.S. economy recovered from the recession and consumers in developing economies, such as China, continued to buy high-end products.

Harald Krueger, who took over as CEO after the group’s annual shareholders’ meeting on May 13, is trying to continue expanding BMW’s lineup while maintaining its profitability. As part of a strategy, partly overseen by the 49-year-old executive since late-2007, BMW has been aiming to make 30% more vehicles with the same number of workers while trying to reduce production costs per vehicle by raising economies of scale in components, drive systems and modules. Now, Krueger must do the same as cars grow more complex and fuel-efficient.

One of BMW’s little-known assets lies about an hour north of Los Angeles, in Newbury Park, Calif. Designworks, a consultancy owned by the German giant, is charged with designing future vehicles, exploring emerging technologies and experimenting with new materials, such as carbon fiber a major—and costly—part of BMW’s strategy to make its cars more fuel efficient in the future. In this video series, TIME looks at how BMW is trying to deal with the difficulties of a ever-more crowded, ever-changing market.

TIME Infectious Disease

California Bill to Scrap Vaccine Exemption Moves Forward

TIME.com stock photos Health Syringe Needle
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Bill that would prohibit parents from not vaccinating their kids passes state senate

The California senate has passed a bill that could help ensure that parents vaccinate their children, months after a measles outbreak in the state linked to low vaccination rates.

The bill, which passed the senate 25 to 10, would prohibit parents from not vaccinating their kids for religious or philosophical beliefs, public radio station KPCC reports. The bill now moves on the state assembly. If it eventually becomes law, California would become the 32nd state to ban such exemptions from vaccines.

The bill comes only a few months after a measles outbreak which infected 169 people from 20 states was traced back to a Disneyland theme park in the state. Researchers point to low vaccination rates as the reason for the outbreak.

Opponents of the bill argues it goes against parents’ rights to make decisions about their children’s health. Kids who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons would still be exempt.

 

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