Lawsuit seeks to block new oil drilling off California – Orange County Register
New lawsuit says October’s Huntington Beach oil spill is proof federal regulators aren’t protecting humpback whales, sea turtles and other endangered animals from offshore oil drilling Californian.
The Center for Biological Diversity, in the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Jan. 26, seeks to force the Biden administration to suspend all new drilling permits in federal waters off California. It also seeks to dismiss a Trump-era analysis, carried out before the incident, which found no major oil spill was likely.
Although no new leases are issued in the region, companies with existing leases continue to drill new wells – which, in turn, are serviced by existing offshore platforms – according to Kristen Monsell, senior counsel at the Center. for Biological Diversity for the prosecution.
While the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Pasasdena, does not seek to stop all drilling, it does seek to block expansion of existing operations in federal waters, which begin three miles offshore and are home to 23 of the 27 flats -Californian forms.
“This lawsuit is directed at the agencies so they don’t make the problem worse,” Monsell said. “The recent oil spill highlights the continued threat posed by offshore oil and gas activity, and how our government is not doing enough to protect species already struggling to survive, from this dangerous activity.”
The lawsuit alleges the spill indicates mismanagement of Environmental Protection Act protections for endangered species.
When the Trump administration explored the possibility of offering new oil leases off California, its analysis was based on the assumption that an oil spill is unlikely and that if it did occur, it would be limited. at 8,400 gallons, according to the suit.
The Oct. 1 spill released about 25,000 gallons of oil into the ocean, resulting in a week of beach closures and a two-month halt to fishing along a 45-mile coastline.
Although no endangered animals were among the reported fatalities, 82 birds and six marine mammals were killed by the spill, according to a UC Davis tally.
A ship’s anchor that caught and dragged a pipeline, possibly months before the leak, was likely the culprit, investigators say.
Monsell said that although new wells have been drilled in recent years, the federal public records do not specify how many.
In 2018, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimated that 10 new wells would be drilled in the region from 2018 to 2023.
The lawsuit faces an uphill battle, according to oil rig consultant John B. Smith, a former official with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees leases in federal waters.
“I think it’s going to get a lot of attention because of the oil spill,” Smith said. “(But) it’s a tough costume to win, I think. Oil companies have concessions and rights associated with them. They would like to preserve their property rights.
He noted that 15 of 23 rigs in federal waters off California are currently closed, as is one of four in state waters. Of those 27 platforms, eight or more are not expected to reopen, he said.
Citing the 2018 estimate of opening 10 new wells over a five-year period, Smith said the new wells “won’t have a big impact.”
“But with rising oil prices, oil companies might want to open more operations,” he said.
Monsell said the federal lawsuit is part of an effort to phase out all offshore drilling. What about new drilling in state waters?
“We are looking at different possible approaches,” she said. “We need to get this out of federal and state waters.”
Asked about the lawsuit, Amplify Energy, owner of the pipeline that leaked in October, stressed that it was not responsible for the spill.
“Had someone notified Amplify Energy in late January 2021 that there had been an anchor drag event near our pipeline, we would have taken immediate action to assess the situation, including deploying an ROV to inspect the line,” said an Amplify. spokesperson.
Oil trade group America’s Offshore Energy Industry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.