Santa Barbara’s Platform Holly will soon be removed

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This week, the State Lands Commission announced Platform Holly, which can be spotted 3 miles off Santa Barbara County near Goleta, will be decommissioned. That means shutting it down and plugging up the 32 wells below.

Energy company and platform operator Venoco declared bankruptcy this week, and its assets are to be sold or wound down through the bankruptcy process.

Holly is one of only four oil platforms that sit offshore of California’s coast in state waters. 

With Earth Day in less than a week, environmentalists in Santa Barbara are celebrating the news.

“This would not have happened if the local community and environmental groups both here and around the state hadn’t been fighting so hard,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel at the Environmental Defense Center.

Platform Holly hasn’t actually produced oil since May 19th, 2015, the day a pipeline owned by Plains All American ruptured, spilling 140,000 gallons of crude oil over state beaches. With that pipeline offline, Venoco’s production dropped 50 percent.

“Venoco has pursued a number of market-based and regulatory solutions to address these challenges during the last year,” said company spokesman Ned Wigglesworth. “Despite these considerable efforts, our financial position now compels us to take this action.”

It was clear back in February that the company’s California plans were in trouble. State Controller Betty Yee and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said they’d both vote for the Lands Commission to reject Venoco’s request to expand operations.

Krop said this shows the state thinks differently than the new federal administration about the future of oil production.

“We know that the Trump administration is talking about opening the door to more offshore oil drilling, and so to be able to say, look, California is trying to go the other way, is a statement that has to be made loud and clear,” she said.

The land where Platform Holly stands will now become part of the state Marine Sanctuary, subject to decisions by California’s elected officials.

Shutting down the platform is expected to take several years. 

Photo by Glenn Beltz