Lawmakers ask for investigation into aging offshore pipelines

Lawmakers ask for investigation into aging offshore pipelines
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Three Democratic lawmakers are raising concerns about the state of coastal U.S. oil and gas pipelines.

Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Alan LowenthalAlan Stuart LowenthalHouse Democrats jam GOP with coronavirus bill Federal lawmakers finally have a real plan to fight plastic pollution — will they step up to the plate? Now is our chance to turn the tide on ocean plastic pollution MORE (Calif.) and Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamCapitol Police officer tests positive for coronavirus Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — US coronavirus cases hit 100,000 | Trump signs T stimulus package | Trump employs defense powers to force GM to make ventilators | New concerns over virus testing 16 things to know for today about coronavirus MORE (S.C.) on Tuesday asked the Government Accountability Office to examine the Department of Interior’s ability to “ensure the integrity of older oil and gas pipeline infrastructure in federal offshore waters, and the increasing risk of leaks caused but hurricanes, corrosion, accidental damage, or other factors.”

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The pipelines of specific concern run under the Gulf of Mexico, California coast and the Arctic.

In their letter, the lawmakers specifically asked the government watchdog to look into the known condition of the pipelines and any environmental risks associated with them, as well as for details about the level of responsibility that Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has for pipeline safety.

The request comes as the Trump administration continues to consider options of opening up more oil and gas drilling off the coast.

"The administration is interested in opening more of the Gulf and the Atlantic/Pacific to new drilling. Offshore pipeline decommissioning hasn’t been looked at in a long time, and this is part of our continuing oversight responsibility," said a spokesperson for the House Natural Resources Committee. Grijalva is the chair of the committee.

"This is just the nuts-and-bolts work of protecting taxpayers and the environment," the spokesperson said. "We have no reason to think BSEE is failing its mission, but it’s clear this issue hasn’t been reviewed in years and given the administration’s proclivities, we’re overdue for a checkup."

The lawmakers are seeking details about the level of monetary responsibility the pipeline owners would be responsible for if leaks or environmental damage were to occur and, subsequently, what financial responsibility taxpayers might be liable for in case of damage to the pipelines.

The trio argued more research is needed in order to “better understand and respond to aging pipelines, including assessing the most feasible and environmentally sound means of decommissioning oil and gas pipelines located on the seafloor.”