Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA), Chair of the Natural Resources Committee Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), and Chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) introduced the Offshore Pipeline Safety Act, which would address the lack of proper oversight of active and decommissioned offshore oil and gas pipelines.
“Across our nation’s coastlines, thousands of miles of decommissioned oil and gas pipelines have been left to decay on the seafloor, posing risks to our marine ecosystems and our fisheries,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “We must do more to ensure that decommissioned pipelines are cleaned up properly. We must also ensure that active wells are properly monitored, including requiring advanced leak detection systems to prevent disasters from occurring. Along California’s Central Coast, we have seen terrible tragedies that resulted from lax oversight, including the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. The scars of this catastrophic event are still visible and continue to have a resounding impact on our region’s environment. My bill takes proactive measures to ensure that our coastlines are protected from these known hazards.”
“The business model of drilling our oceans for a quick buck and sticking the public with the cleanup bill is coming to an end,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva. “Our oceans are there for all of us, not just oil and gas companies, and if they can’t behave responsibly on their own, this Congress will be happy to step in and set some overdue boundaries. I wholeheartedly support Rep. Brownley’s bill, I thank GAO for their thorough and professional work on this issue, and I look forward to addressing this at the Committee level in a timely way.”
“Representative Brownley’s Offshore Pipeline Safety Act is critically important to protecting our environment and communities from the risks associated with leaks from, not just aging, but all offshore oil and gas pipelines,” said Congressman Alan Lowenthal, Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. “To ensure protections, there must be consistent inspection and monitoring of this infrastructure and study the safety and environmental risks associated decommissioning these pipelines – and that is exactly what this bill does. For too long we have gone without a proper rule governing these pipelines. That should end now.”
The Offshore Pipeline Safety Act is based on recommendations from a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released by Chair Grijalva and Rep. Lowenthal today. The report, Offshore Oil and Gas: Updated Regulations Needed to Improve Pipeline Oversight and Decommissioning, available here finds that 18,000 miles of pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico – more than 97 percent of the total in the region – have been “decommissioned in place” since the 1960s, meaning fossil fuel drillers left them on the seafloor without any plan to subsequently remediate or remove them.
The Offshore Pipeline Safety Act would require the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) to:
- Finalize regulations requiring pipeline owners to provide for biannual, third-party inspection of pipelines and to equip pipelines with leak detection systems.
- Conduct a study jointly with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to evaluate environmental risks with leaving decommissioned pipelines on the seafloor.
- Consider environmental impacts and navigational hazards of issuing a permit to an owner that would allow for a decommissioned pipeline to be left on the seafloor.
- Continually monitor the condition and location of pipelines that are decommissioned and left on the seafloor.
- Charge an annual pipeline owners fee of $10,000 per mile for pipelines at a depth of 500 feet or greater and $1,000 per mile for pipelines below 500 feet. This fee would go towards decommissioning or removing pipelines in the event an owner files for bankruptcy.
- Remove or properly secure any decommissioned pipeline that it identifies as having exposed segments.
- Conduct a study addressing environmental risks of chemical products used in oil and gas operations.
The bill is endorsed by: Oceana, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), League of Conservation Voters, Earthjustice, Sierra Club, Healthy Gulf, and Ocean Conservancy.
Read the text of the bill, here.