An underwater pipeline that ruptured last year and led to a 25,000-gallon oil spill off the coast of Orange County soon could be repaired, paving the way for local offshore drilling to resume early next year.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Friday, Sept. 30, that it will let the pipeline’s owner, Amplify Energy, remove and replace the damaged portion of pipe from the ocean floor, a spot about 160 feet deep and roughly five miles off shore.
That process is expected to take about a month. After that, if the repairs pass federal inspections – including stress tests aimed at preventing future ruptures – Amplify hopes to bring its San Pedro Bay operations back online during the first quarter of 2023.
Though federal approval for Amplify’s bid to repair its 17-mile pipeline was expected, local environmental activists expressed frustration.
The company and state investigators have said the pipeline ruptured after a ship anchor, or multiple anchors from more than one ship, dragged over the pipe months before the leak. But Amplify also recently pleaded no contest to federal and state criminal charges related to its response to the leakage, and some activists don’t want Amplify, or any other company, to resume operations off the California coast.
A press release from the Center for Biological Diversity included comments from leaders of several organizations that oppose the new federal ruling.
“As we witnessed firsthand, the deteriorating and unproductive platforms off Southern California’s coast are a constant risk to the health of humans and wildlife,” said Garry Brown, founder and president of Orange County Coastkeeper.
“It is well past time,” he said, “to decommission California’s offshore oil and gas infrastructure, and this irresponsible permit is a step in the wrong direction.”
Last month, the Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the federal government, saying the drilling plans that allow for oil operations in San Pedro Bay are outdated and that a federal agency, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, hasn’t reviewed those plans even in the wake of last year’s oil spill.
In the lawsuit, the group also argues that the drilling plans, written in the 1970s and ’80s, suggest offshore platforms in the area should already be decommissioned.
It’s unclear what role, if any, that lawsuit could play in Amplify’s bid to resume local offshore operations.
About seven in 10 California residents oppose offshore oil drilling, according to a 2021 survey from the Public Policy Institute of California.
Source: Orange County Register