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California forced to respond after new oil spill

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David McNew/Getty Images

The US Coast Guard and various environmental groups have begun cleanup efforts in the Santa Barbara area after an oil pipeline ruptured yesterday morning. The line, owned by Plains All American Pipeline, contaminated a 4-mile stretch from El Refugio State Beach to El Capitan State Beach with more than 20,000 gallons (500 barrels worth) of crude oil before the leak was stopped in the afternoon.

The cause of the rupture is still unknown, but a representative for Plains All American also told NBC News that the pipeline was inspected in the last two weeks. Officials evacuated Refugio State Beach shortly after the leak was discovered.

A much larger spill that occurred in Santa Barbara in 1969 is often credited with galvanizing the environmental movement. That spill remains the largest in the history of California, and the third largest ever in the US behind the Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez spills.

The news comes a little more than a week after the Obama administration gave Shell conditional approval to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, a controversial decision which has spurred protestors into attempting to block the company's drill ship from leaving its port in Seattle.