Aging offshore oil platforms targeted in greens' new lawsuit

A warning sign is posted for people to stay out of the water after a major oil spill off the coast of California came ashore in Huntington Beach, California, U.S., October 4, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake
  • The 2021 Huntington Beach oil spill highlights outdated safety plans for oil platforms, greens say

(Reuters) - A lawsuit filed Wednesday by groups seeking a fresh review of federal safety plans and a halt on new drilling in the Pacific Ocean cite an oil spill off California’s southern coast last year to highlight the dangers of aging offshore rigs.

Plans for the Beta offshore oilfield just under 10 miles southwest of Huntington Beach were first issued in the 1970s and 1980s and have remained unchanged since, despite a requirement under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) update the analysis to reflect the best available science and data, according to the lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in California federal court.

The complaint points to the dangers of aging equipment by referring to a 2021 oil spill that released at least 25,000 gallons of crude into the Pacific Ocean near Huntington Beach. It also cites current science showing that fossil fuel extraction contributes to climate change.

The 2021 spill occurred when ships' anchors cracked the cement casing of a pipeline traveling from a drilling platform to the shore. The company operating the pipeline, Amplify Energy Corp, agreed to pay $18 million in state and federal penalties over the incident, which killed birds and fouled beaches.

Center for Biological Diversity attorney Kristen Monsell called the drilling infrastructure “ticking time bombs.”

“As long as offshore drilling is going on in the Beta field, the next oil spill is a matter of when, not if," she said.

BOEM declined to comment.

The Beta oilfield includes four oil and gas platforms, out of 23 total currently operating in the Pacific outer continental shelf. While at least nine of those platforms are slated for decommissioning, the platforms in the Beta oilfield are on active leases and further drilling permits could be applied for in those areas.

The case is Center for Biological Diversity v. Haaland, United States District Court for the Central District of California, No. 2:22-cv-06996.

For Center for Biological Diversity: Kristen Monsell and Miyoko Sakashita

For the government: Not immediately available

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