Chair Grijalva Announces Bill Markup, Hearing on Federal Offshore Oil and Gas Infrastructure Following Environmental Disaster in Southern California

Washington, D.C. - Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today announced that the House Natural Resources Committee will mark up a pair of bills to strengthen regulation and oversight of offshore oil drilling on Wednesday, Oct. 13, and hold an oversight hearing on Thursday, Oct. 14, on abandoned offshore fossil fuel infrastructure. The moves follow a major pipeline spill that has released more than 126,000 gallons of crude oil near Huntington Beach, Calif., causing what is already believed to be significant damage to coastal wetlands, marine resources, and wildlife habitats.

The Committee on Oct. 13 will hold a markup headlined by consideration of the Offshore Pipeline Safety Act (H.R. 2643) introduced by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) and the Offshore Accountability Act (H.R. 570) introduced by Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.). Both bills were initially discussed at a May 13 legislative hearing and are cosponsored by Chair Grijalva and Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Chair Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.). 

Rep. Brownley introduced H.R. 2643 in April following a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report—originally requested by Grijalva and Lowenthal—that found the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) does not provide adequate oversight of active and abandoned offshore oil and gas pipelines. Among other provisions, H.R. 2643 requires BSEE to issue regulations improving the oversight of offshore pipelines, including mandating frequent inspections and requiring pipelines to be equipped with a leak detection system.

Introduced in January, Rep. McEachin’s Offshore Accountability Act would require offshore drilling operators to report failures of critical safety systems directly to the Secretary of the Interior, who would then be required to publicly disclose these incident reports.

On Thursday, Oct. 14, the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee will hold a virtual  oversight hearing at 12:00 pm Eastern time titled “Impacts of Abandoned Offshore Oil and Gas Infrastructure and the Need for Stronger Federal Oversight.” As the April GAO report and Huntington Beach spill make clear, offshore oil and gas infrastructure—including active and abandoned pipelines, wells, platforms, and other equipment—pose serious risks to coastal communities and wildlife. Abandoned infrastructure, including old pipelines left on the seafloor, can pose environmental, fishing, and navigation hazards and create obstructions that potentially result in taxpayers paying for cleanup and removal costs. In late August, Hurricane Ida tore through the Gulf region, causing multiple oil leaks from aging energy infrastructure, including abandoned pipelines. 

Hearing witnesses and the full markup agenda will both be announced later this week.  

“The oil and gas industry has ignored public health and the environment for decades, and what’s happening in Huntington Beach today will keep happening to more American communities until Congress steps in,” Grijalva said. “As long as the industry is given a free hand to operate with impunity and dodge responsibility for the mess they cause and leave behind, there will be more disasters. This Committee is moving quickly to protect our coastlines and the communities that rely on them by setting the standards the industry refuses to set for itself.”

In early September, the committee passed provisions in its portion of the Build Back Better Act to charge offshore pipeline operators annual fees and prevent new offshore leasing in federal waters in the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

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