Outdated Offshore Drilling Plans Linked To California Oil Spill That Killed Wildlife Will Be Reviewed By U.S. Government

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) agreed this week to review outdated plans for offshore oil platforms near Huntington Beach in Southern California. Under the agreement, BOEM must complete the reviews of decades-old development plans for Platforms Edith, Ellen, Elly, and Eureka before December 15, 2024.

The agreement results from a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in September 2022. A year earlier, a major oil spill linked to Platform Elly in the region caused significant damage to wildlife and beaches.

“Gambling with our ocean is inexcusable, and I’m glad these rusty offshore drilling platforms will get the long-overdue review they need,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center. “California’s aging offshore oil platforms pose too big a risk of spills and climate chaos for our coastal communities and wildlife. I won’t be surprised if a meaningful review of drilling plans written back when disco was king reveals that the platforms need to be shut down.”

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act requires BOEM to review and revise previously approved drilling plans based on new information or changes in operations. The reviews evaluate whether offshore drilling operations are causing serious harm to the environment, people or wildlife. The plans for these platforms, in an area known as the Beta Unit, were written and approved in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Despite new relevant information regarding the platforms, federal regulators have not reviewed the plans or required updates. The new information includes safety violations, advanced oil spill risk analysis, and climate science on the need to transition from fossil fuels. The Beta Unit’s platforms were scheduled to be decommissioned more than a decade ago, but drilling has continued.

In April, the court rejected a BOEM attempt to dismiss the case on the grounds that the reviews were not legally required, and the suit was allowed to proceed. The decision created a legal precedent indicating that plans for other drilling platforms off the coast of California may also require review. It was the first time any court had considered the issue of outdated offshore drilling plans.

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