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GAO raises concerns about government inspections of offshore pipelines

GAO raises concerns about government inspections of offshore pipelines

A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that the federal government lacks “robust” processes to both ensure the integrity of active offshore pipelines and to deal with inactive ones that have been left on the seafloor. 

The nonpartisan congressional watchdog found that the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) does not generally conduct or require inspections for active undersea pipelines, and also said that safety devices are not always reliable. 

It said that the agency has worked with industry on new technology, but that there are limits on its use. 

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On inactive pipelines, the watchdog also found that BSEE doesn’t adequately account for safety and environmental risks for applications to decommission the vessels and has allowed 97 percent of all pipeline mileage to be left on the seafloor. 

Specifically, the bureau doesn’t fully weigh whether pipelines are “hazards to navigation and commercial fishing operations, unduly interfere with other uses of the [outer continental shelf] or have adverse environmental effects,” the report said. 

It also said that the agency doesn’t ensure that companies that operate the pipelines meet standards for decommissioning them and that it also doesn’t monitor their condition or location. 

“The business model of drilling our oceans for a quick buck and sticking the public with the cleanup bill is coming to an end,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said in a statement on the report. 

“Our oceans are there for all of us, not just oil and gas companies, and if they can’t behave responsibly on their own, this Congress will be happy to step in and set some overdue boundaries,” Grijalva added. 

In written comments, Interior Department senior advisor Laura Daniel-Davis said that the agency, which oversees BSEE, “generally agrees” with the report's findings. 

Daniel-Davis added that the department was taking steps to comply with recommendations in the report.