U.S. Senate Committee on Judiciary

10/07/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/07/2021 13:38

Feinstein, Padilla Demand Transparency in Oil Spill Investigation, Call for Additional Safety Measures

Senators call for Biden administration's support for West Coast Protection Act

Washington-Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla (both D-Calif.) called on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to investigate the recent oil spill off the coast of California, make public the results of the investigation and commit to clear timelines for safety regulations, such as inspections, shut-off valves and leak detection systems, in existing pipelines.

The letter highlights reports that the pipeline's owner, Amplify Energy, has a history of violating safety regulations. The senators asked the Department of Transportation, which has oversight over pipeline safety, to ensure the company properly notified authorities when it first discovered the leak and to provide a thorough public report to Congress on its findings.

Additionally, the senators urged the administration's support to include the West Coast Protection Act in the budget reconciliation bill. The legislation led by Senator Feinstein and cosponsored by Senator Padilla would prohibit new offshore oil drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.

"We write with great concern regarding the massive oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach, California and request that you provide us and the public with maximum transparency and identify steps to ensure this never occurs again," the senators wrote. "The breach of the pipeline has leaked an estimated 144,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean, causing irreparable harm to local ecosystems, devastating wildlife, and closing beaches to the public."

The senators continued: "The history of Amplify Energy Corporation and its subsidiary Beta Offshore Operating Co., is of particular concern. Recent reports show that Beta Offshore has a long record of noncompliance incidents and violations, including two violations in 2013 and 2014 that resulted in two workers being injured, 72 so-called component and facility shut-in noncompliance incidents, in which violations had to be corrected before the company could continue the activities in question, and 53 additional noncompliance warnings."

Full text of the letter follows:

October 6, 2021

The Honorable Pete Buttigieg
Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Secretary Buttigieg,

We write with great concern regarding the massive oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach, California and request that you provide us and the public with maximum transparency and identify steps to ensure this never occurs again. The breach of the pipeline has leaked an estimated 144,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean, causing irreparable harm to local ecosystems, devastating wildlife, and closing beaches to the public.

We urge you, in partnership with the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board, to put every resource into determining the exact details of the spill. It is our understanding that the 17.7-mile pipeline had been displaced by about 105 feet, and there was a 13-inch split along the length of the pipe. However, the public needs to know when the drop in pressure was first identified by the operator, when authorities were notified, when the spill was first detected, and what impact this timing had on subsequent response mobilization. Additionally, given differing reports about this timeline, it is imperative to determine exactly how much oil the pipeline spilled, whether automated notifications and shut-off valves were properly employed, and document the effects on local ecosystems and wildlife. We also request information on when the public can expect cleanup to be completed, and what agencies and contractors will be employed in the effort.

The history of Amplify Energy Corporation and its subsidiary Beta Offshore Operating Co., is of particular concern. Recent reports show that Beta Offshore has a long record of noncompliance incidents and violations, including two violations in 2013 and 2014 that resulted in two workers being injured, 72 so-called component and facility shut-in noncompliance incidents, in which violations had to be corrected before the company could continue the activities in question, and 53 additional noncompliance warnings.

We also urge you to clearly identify for policymakers what additional regulatory, statutory, and technological steps could be implemented, based on your investigation to ensure a spill of this magnitude does not occur again. While we work to permanently end offshore drilling, this spill has made clear that existing pipelines must be required to have modern safety technologies.

Finally, as clean and renewable energy become an increasingly large share of California's electrical grid, such spills and destruction become even more unnecessary and wasteful. That is why we have introduced the West Coast Ocean Protection Act, which would prohibit new offshore oil drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. This bill has the support of every single West Coast Senator, and we urge the Administration's support to include this meaningful legislation in the budget reconciliation bill.

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Alex Padilla
United States Senator

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