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Work Continues On Removal of Oil Platform, Oil Facilities On South Coast

Platform Holly off the Gaviota coastline

It was news that left environmentalists thrilled.  An oil company announced it was filing bankruptcy, and would permanently shut down an oil platform off the Santa Barbara County coastline, as well as an onshore pier.  But, it’s also been uncharted territory for the state.  The company left the state holding the bag, so to speak when it comes to removing the facilities.

Sheri Pemberton is with the State Lands Commission, which is overseeing the removal of Platform Holly and the Ellwood Beach Pier.

A bit of background:  ARCO built Platform Holly more than 50 years ago, in 1966.  The oil platform is in more than 200 feet of water about two miles southwest of UC Santa Barbara’s Coal Oil Point.  It’s peak production was in the mid-1980’s.  But, the 2015 onshore oil pipeline rupture on the Gaviota coastline shut down the rig, because there was no way to get the oil out of the area by pipe.  Venoco declared bankruptcy in 2017.

The state brought in contractors to help manage and work on the facilities.  Depending on the environmental review process, it looks like it could take three to five years to remove the oil facilities.  But, some wells have already been capped.

The State Lands Commission is normally in the business of regulating oil facilities on state lands, and not managing them.  The agency is actually facing two situations on the South Coast where it has been stuck with the task of removing shuttered oil facilities.  It's also daling with some abandoned oil facilities on Rincon Island, in Ventura County.

Keeping the community involved is a key part of the process, especially because oil leases have been such a controversial issue in the region.

The State Lands Commission and the City of Goleta will host a town hall on the status of Platform Holly, and the Ellwood Pier this Thursday.  Coronavirus has moved the event online.    It begins at 6 p.m. Thursday.  Here is the link:

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