Legacy Oil Well on Santa Barbara Beach Successfully Plugged by State Lands Commission


SACRAMENTO -- The State Lands Commission has successfully completed the plugging and abandonment of the Becker Onshore well, an old disused leaking oil well in the surf zone of Summerland Beach in Santa Barbara County, the site of the nation's first offshore oil development. The State Lands Commission - with the support of the Summerland community, Heal the Ocean, and State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson - secured dedicated funding to remediate and properly abandon the leaking Becker oil well on the Southern California coastline. Oil leaking from the Becker Onshore well had resulted in extended beach closures to protect public health.

"This project is evidence of this state's pledge to its natural heritage and to future generations, and runs counter to the direction taken by President Trump on oil drilling," said Lt. Governor and State Lands Commissioner Gavin Newsom. "Thanks to the hard work of Commission staff and our partnership with the governor, Senator Jackson, and the Summerland community, this well will no longer endanger our precious marine life, harm our coastal ecosystems, or pollute our beaches."

The Summerland Oil Field was the first offshore oil development in the United States. Many of the Summerland Beach wells were drilled in the late 1800s when there was little or no state oversight, and virtually no records exist for the drilling and abandonment of these wells, leaving hundreds of languishing oil wells that were never properly remediated at Summerland Beach. Oil from the Becker well regularly appeared on the beach and in the water.

"Thank you to our State Lands Commission staff for their diligent work to properly plug, abandon, and remediate the leaking Becker well in the interest of our pristine beaches, coastal habitats, and public health," said State Controller and State Lands Commission Chair Betty T. Yee. "Families will now be able to safely enjoy Summerland Beach for decades to come."

The remedial work, approved by the State Lands Commission in August 2017, was dependent on weather and tide conditions, and on securing other necessary permits. The work involved delivering and removing a cofferdam and other equipment and using a barge towed from the Port of Long Beach. The work was handled by a crew experienced in oil field operations and environmental monitoring.

"I am thrilled to see our work to cap the infamous Becker well has paid off. This is an important step in cleaning up our beaches, but we should not forget that there is much more work to be done," said Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara). "Continuing efforts to cap legacy wells remains a priority for the community and my legislation, the Coastal Oil Well Clean Up and Remediation Act of 2017, helps ensure these efforts continue to be funded. I would like to thank our local advocates, in particular Heal the Ocean, and the State Lands Commission for their work on this issue."

The Commission also removes other hazards along the California coast. In 2017, the governor signed SB 44 (Jackson) into law, transferring up to $2 million annually from tideland oil and gas revenue to implement the Commission's legacy oil and gas well and coastal hazard removal and remediation program. This funding will enable the Commission to protect coastal resources, maximize public access to the beach, and reduce the presence of oil in our marine waters and along our coast.