10.14.21 Unanswered questions about oil spill suggest oversight isn’t working

Experts say current rules and regulations on offshore oil might not be good enough.

Excerpted from the Orange County Register

By Joan Cain, Alicia Robinson, Teri Sforza

California’s fleet of offshore oil and gas rigs, and the miles of pipelines that connect those rigs to on-shore refining operations, feature some of the most advanced technology the industry has to offer.

Out at sea, computerized systems on the manned platforms can detect even tiny leaks in the pipelines, monitoring the pressure and flow of oil from command centers that operate 24 hours a day. In some cases, valves are programmed to automatically snap into place to limit escaping oil.

And, beyond that, government regulators and private firms employ a veritable armada of inspection. Airplanes, drones, divers — all scout the ocean for signs of spilling oil.

But all of those safeguards weren’t enough to prevent oil from leaking into the water off Huntington Beach from an underwater pipeline this month, environmental and legal advocates say.

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“How in the world did it take so long for them to detect a leak?” asked State Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, who this week was named chair of a legislative committee that will look at the spill and how to prevent others.

Petrie-Norris, whose district includes much of the Orange County coast, said she has questions about Amplify’s “level of urgency” in its response.

“Were their detection systems not up to par? Do our regulations for detection systems need to be improved?”