McEachin bill would increase transparency, accountability of offshore oil, gas industry

donald mceachinCongressman A. Donald McEachin, D-Va., introduced the Offshore Accountability Act of 2020 on Tuesday, on the anniversary of the devastating 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill,

The Offshore Accountability Act of 2020 would require operators of offshore drilling facilities to report failures of critical safety systems directly to the Secretary of the Interior.

The Secretary would then be required to publicly disclose these incident reports.

Currently, legally required reporting of critical offshore drilling safety equipment failure is sent anonymously to SafeOCS, a third-party confidential reporting system, rather than directly to the Secretary of the Interior. As a result, this information is not accessible to the public or members of Congress.

“The lack of transparency in the confidential reporting system used today fosters a deeply concerning culture of secrecy around the offshore oil and gas industry,” McEachin said in a statement. “I introduced this legislation because I believe all Americans, especially those in coastal communities dependent on critical ecosystems, deserve transparency from the industries currently operating in our oceans, particularly when equipment failures can result in significant devastation for coastal economies, wildlife and the environment.

Cosponsored by Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Jared Huffman (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), the Offshore Accountability Act of 2020 is endorsed by a number of environmental groups including Oceana, Ocean Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Alaska Wilderness League, the Wilderness Society, Earthworks, Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Healthy Gulf, and Hands Across the Sand.

“Congressman McEachin’s Offshore Accountability Act marks a positive step toward greater transparency and holding the offshore oil industry responsible for safety failures,” said Diane Hoskins, Offshore Drilling Campaign Director at OCEANA. “Too many oil spills continue to pollute our waters and too many workers are dying or getting injured on the job because of systemic safety problems. This bill would pull back the curtain on equipment failures and make their details readily available to the public. Given the grossly inadequate nature of current offshore drilling safeguards, this is not an industry that should be allowed to wreak havoc on any new areas, [including] Virginia’s coastline.”

“This legislation recognizes that even as we transition to a clean energy future, we can’t avoid the risks of our dirty energy past,” lauded Marissa Knodel, Legislative Counsel for Earthjustice. “By identifying and confronting potential system failures at offshore drilling facilities before they become emergencies, we can save lives and prevent the wanton destruction of vital ocean ecosystems. Earthjustice is proud to endorse this bill and will work with our allies in Congress to secure its passage.”

“Americans know a lot about the perils of offshore oil drilling,” noted Aaron Mintzes, Senior Policy Counsel at Earthworks. “Fifty-one years ago today, ‘the oil spill heard around the world’ offshore of Santa Barbara led Californians to ban offshore drilling. Today’s bill helps protect our coasts and delivers transparency to the people, plants, and wildlife dependent upon them. It also provides a partial fix to the rollback of protections put in place following BP’s Deep Water Horizon disaster. Earthworks is proud to support this important legislation, and we appreciate Mr. McEachin’s leadership.”

“To ensure appropriate accountability and oversight of existing offshore drilling facilities, failures of essential safety equipment must be made public,” McEachin said. “We must do everything in our power to learn from the past and to prevent tragedies like the Santa Barbara Oil Spill from occurring again.”

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