Biden Administration Aims To Remove Oil Rigs, Pipelines, And Wells Off Southern California’s Coast

The Biden Administration announced yesterday its intent to prepare a programmatic environmental analysis of the impacts of decommissioning oil and gas drilling platforms, pipelines, and wells off the coast of Southern California.

The announcement starts the process of permanently ending all offshore oil and gas operations at eight platforms and removing these platforms and their associated pipelines from the ocean.

“We’re glad to see this announcement and hope it signals the end of drilling off California’s coast,” said Kristen Monsell, legal director of the oceans program at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. “The oil industry has wreaked havoc in our oceans for far too long. It’s time for companies to clean up the mess of platforms and pipelines that litter our beautiful marine environment.”

There are 23 oil and gas platforms and associated wells, pipelines, and other facilities in federal waters off the coast of Southern California. Oil companies installed the platforms between the late 1960s and early 1990s.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s announcement states that it expects to soon receive decommissioning applications for eight of those platforms that are currently shut down and located on terminated leases that no longer allow oil production. The announcement said it’s unknown when decommissioning may begin for the remaining 15 platforms.

Rather than start the decommissioning process, ExxonMobil is currently seeking special permission to truck oil so that it can restart three of its platforms off California that have been shut down since a 2015 oil spill from a pipeline.

The agency’s review will consider two action alternatives: complete removal of all infrastructure, or partial removal, under which only the tops of platforms would be removed and the pipelines left in place. Complete removal is the agency’s preferred alternative. The agency expects to release a draft environmental review in February 2022 and the final in June 2022.

The announcement comes as the Biden administration is reviewing the government’s leasing and permitting practices for fossil fuel development on federal lands and waters.

“We strongly agree with the Biden administration that getting these rigs completely out of the water is the best way to protect California’s fragile coastal ecosystems,” Monsell said. “Thankfully, the offshore drilling era is ending, but we need to act quickly and decisively to safeguard our climate and our beautiful, rapidly warming oceans.”

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