GOLETA, Calif. – On Haskell’s Beach Monday morning, the California’s State Lands Commission along with other state and local officials celebrated the successful removal of the last two shorezone piers and caisson structures in the state.
This decommissioning project marked the end of oil production in the Ellwood Oil Field. Lieutenant Governor of California, Eleni Kounalakis, called the removal of Piers 421-1 and 421-2 a major chapter in California’s history.
“In the last century, oil extraction along the coast was far more widespread, particularly here along the Santa Barbara Coast,” said Kounalakis. “Thirteen oil piers once dotted this beautiful beach, today there are none.”
Oil production in the area started in the late 1920s and continued into the 1990s.
After Venoco filed for bankruptcy in 2017, the South Ellwood leases transferred to the State and the Commission embarked on the decommissioning project. Work started on removing the piers in August 2022 and was completed in February 2023. Nearly 6 thousand tons of material was removed. 4,258 tons of soil, 1,110 tons of concrete, 320 tons of steel, and 131 tons of wood.
Carla Frisk, who sits on the Board of Directors for ‘Get Oil Out’, says there is still more work to do to remove the legacy of oil production in the Santa Barbara region.
“We have a lot to get out, obviously we wish it would go a little faster,” said Frisk. “We got Platform Holly out here, there are many platforms in federal waters. That is going to be the next biggest challenge.”
During the ceremony on Haskell’s Beach, the Lieutenant Governor pointed to Platform Holly and said “That is on its way out!”
The State Lands Commission says 30 wells on Platform Holly have been plugged. The Commission says it has already eliminated the hydrogen sulfide risk to the community and environment from those wells.
The Commission says it is now working to clean the structure and equipment of residual hydrocarbons, remove the conductor casings which serve as the final well connection between the platform and the seabed, and preparing the platform for a caretaker period whereby the platform can be safely de-staffed while the platform awaits decommissioning.
A community Town Hall on the decommissioning process of Platform Holly is schedule for Wednesday, June 7 at Goleta’s City Hall starting at 6 p.m.
During the ceremony, California State Representative Greg Hart recalled the lessons learned from the devastating 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. Hart called the work the State is doing to decommission oil facilities and invest in renewable energy important work.
“We’re constantly whipped by floods and droughts and wildfires that are caused by our reliance on the fossil fuel industry,” said Hart. “We have an imperative to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”
California State Controller, Malia Cohen, said the state is setting an example for other state’s to invest in renewable energy.
“California really is a beacon of light for all other states that are looking to decommission oil rigs to divorce themselves from their reliance on fossil fuel.”
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