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Last Oil Rig in California Waters to be Decommissioned

The state of California will begin to decommission Platform Holly near Santa Barbara - the last offshore rig in state waters. (Linda Krop)
The state of California will begin to decommission Platform Holly near Santa Barbara - the last offshore rig in state waters. (Linda Krop)
April 18, 2017

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The last remaining offshore oil platform in California waters will now be decommissioned, after Venoco, the company that owns it, declared bankruptcy and handed the lease back to the state.

Platform Holly off of Santa Barbara was shut down two years ago after a nearby pipe owned by a different company burst, spilling 142,000 gallons of oil onto Refugio Beach.

But Linda Krop, chief counsel with the Environmental Defense Center, says the company had been trying to expand its operations and was seeking permission to slant drill up to four miles from the platform, something her group has been fighting for decades.

"Platform Holly and the related pier that will also be decommissioned have been operating for more than 50 years," she said. "You know, this is aging infrastructure that poses significant risks of air pollution, gas leaks and oil spills."

Venoco said in a statement that the ongoing closure of the pipeline it needs to transport the oil led to the decision. The California State Lands Commission now will be charged with permanently plugging the wells.

Krop says this is a turning point in oil drilling up and down the state because it sends a signal to the Trump administration, which reportedly is considering reopening a five-year plan that was finalized near the end of President Obama's time in office.

"President Trump has expressed interest in opening up additional areas for leasing, and we're very concerned that the California coast could be added to that plan," she added.

There has been no federal oil and gas leasing in waters off of California since 1984. However, a lot of oil and gas infrastructure remains, so stakeholders are waiting for word from the Department of the Interior on whether it will reverse Obama-era limits on offshore drilling.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA