Carbajal Sends Letter Requesting Improvements to Decommissioning of Offshore Oil and Gas Equipment

This week, Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24) joined House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and eight other Members of Congress from California in a letter to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) outlining needed improvements to the decommissioning process for offshore oil and gas infrastructure off the California coast.

Together, BOEM and BSEE are the agencies primarily responsible for managing and overseeing offshore energy activities, including enforcement of environmental protection and safety. 

The full letter is available here.

As the lawmakers point out, retired offshore oil and gas infrastructure “poses a significant risk to the environment, other offshore infrastructure, and frontline communities.” Exacerbating these risks, decommissioning processes are currently inadequate. Last year, a report by the Government Accountability Office, a non-partisan watchdog, highlighted several major shortcomings in the decommissioning of offshore pipelines in particular.

The letter also highlights issues with BSEE’s “Rigs-to-Reef” program, which facilitates the transition of decommissioned oil and gas infrastructure into artificial reef habitats for ocean life. The ecological benefits of the program are still under debate, raising concerns about BSEE’s remarkably high 99% acceptance rate for the program. The long-term consequences of abandoned, deteriorating infrastructure for oceans and frontline communities demands better use of the best available science in this decision making.

The authors also warn against releasing oil and gas companies of their decommissioning financial liabilities, which would foist the costs on American taxpayers instead. Fully decommissioning platforms off the Pacific coast is conservatively estimated to cost at least $1.6 billion.

To address these issues, the lawmakers “encourage BSEE to incorporate three core components in the final PEIS and individual decommissioning decisions: (1) a comprehensive assessment of the long-term implications of remnant infrastructure, including pipelines and platforms, (2) a commitment to a science-driven approach, and (3) the protection of American taxpayers’ best interests today and for years to come.”

The full list of signers includes Carbajal, Grijalva, Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Rep. Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.), Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.).

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