EPA approves discharge permits for California offshore rigs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 9 Office approved a final discharge permit for oil and gas offshore oil platforms located in federal waters off the coast of California...

Sep 23rd, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 22, 2004 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 9 Office approved a final discharge permit for oil and gas offshore oil platforms located in federal waters off the coast of California.

The discharge permit (No. CAG280000), which will be effective Dec. 1, limits the amount of pollutants from oil and gas operations that can be discharged into the ocean from platforms located four or more miles from the California coast.

"Today's permit provides for greater environmental protection than we've had over the last 20 years," said, Alexis Strauss, the EPA's water division director for the Pacific Southwest region. "And it provides the mechanism to set more protective limits in the future if warranted through further study."

The new permit applies to 22 existing development and production platforms as well as to any new exploratory drilling operations located in and discharging to specified lease blocks on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Southern California. The permit replaces existing permits for the 22 platforms, some of which have been in place for many years.

In particular, the permit incorporates effluent limitation guidelines promulgated by the EPA in 1993 for this industry, which have already been implemented for other offshore oil and gas platforms in the United States.

As such, it sets stricter effluent limitations for oil and grease. This will reduce the amount of oil and grease discharged to ocean waters by more than 1,250 pounds per day. That will result in more stringent water protection sooner than would have been possible under previously proposed permit options.

The new permit will implement technology based effluent limits for the oil and gas industry based on current EPA guidelines, which apply in other offshore locations such as the Gulf of Mexico.

The permit replaces existing permits that have expired, some more than 20 years ago. Today's permit requires a 1-year study to collect discharge information to establish effluent limitations. The study results and any new proposed permit limits will be submitted to the public for comment. The new permit allows discharge limits to be updated in the future with stricter standards if the study indicates they are necessary.

The permit is issued under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) rules, which regulate discharges from industrial facilities under the Clean Water Act.

For more information, see http://epa.gov/EPA-WATER/2004/September/Day-22/.

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