Offshore Oil and Clean Air

In Joanna Miller’s recent article regarding provisions in the Clean Air Act for emissions from offshore oil facilities, a number of items require some clarification.

Local officials continue to state that emissions from offshore development are significantly impacting their air quality. However, data generated by local agencies for their air quality attainment plans show that offshore emissions are about 5% of the total emission inventory, and the impact onshore is even less due to distance and disbursement factors.

In addition, the most recent and technically sound study of smog-producing hydrocarbon emissions from outer continental shelf platforms cites emission levels at 30 to 40 times lower than projected by local air quality attainment plans.

We think it’s also important for the public to know that seven of the platforms offshore of the tri-counties are powered with electricity and therefore emit very few pollutants. All of the platforms installed after 1984 have been fully offset, which means emissions have been reduced at other operations in the area resulting in no increase in local pollutants. There is no basis for Bill Master’s comment in the article that each platform emits 600 tons of pollutants. In fact, a typical platform emits 50 tons of nitrogen oxides and 10 tons of reactive hydrocarbons annually.


Industry does have a concern with transfer of regulatory authority of outer continental shelf air quality from the Minerals Management Service to the Environmental Protection Agency. The Department of Interior currently has full regulatory authority over offshore oil and gas development, and movement of a portion of that authority to another permitting agency substantially complicates this issue.

Industry is taking the air quality issue very seriously. We recognize that we contribute to the problem and are doing a number of things to be part of the solution. However, the solution will require efforts from all individuals and businesses, not just the oil industry.


Santa Barbara


Covington wrote on behalf of the California Coastal Operators Group.