LOS ANGELES — As thousands of gallons of crude oil from a ruptured pipeline spread along the California coast, its operator wasn't able to contact workers near the break to get information required to alert federal emergency officials.

That's according to federal documents released Wednesday.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration says personnel for Plains All American Pipeline needed the precise location of the May 19 spill and an estimate of its size before notifying the National Response Center, a clearinghouse for reports of hazardous-material releases.

However, company workers at the site near Santa Barbara were contending with "distractions" and couldn't be reached by Plains personnel based in Bakersfield.

The Texas-based company has been facing criticism about the length of time it took to relay information to the government.