Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis Visits Two Milestone Decommissioning Projects in the State’s Central Coast


Wednesday, June 7, 2023 (916) 445-8994

City of Goleta – This week, Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis wrapped up a 2-day visit to California’s central coast to highlight two milestone projects to end oil production near Santa Barbara. The visit included a celebration of the removal of Piers 421, California’s last offshore oil production shorezone piers in Goleta, and a survey of progress decommissioning Platform Holly, located two miles off the city’s shore.  

Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis serves as chair of the three-member State Lands Commission, which oversees the control and leasing of four million acres of state-owned land, including tidelands, riverbeds, and submerged lands up to three miles offshore. The Commission is also responsible for permitting the use and extraction of oil, gas and other mineral resources.  

“As the world grapples with the urgent need to address climate change, California stands at the forefront, pioneering innovative solutions and championing the transition to clean energy,” said Lieutenant Governor and Commission Chair, Eleni Kounalakis. “Removing the last two oil piers off California not only enhances public access to our beautiful beaches, but also brings us closer to a future free of fossil fuels.” 

On Monday, Lt. Governor Kounalakis celebrated the removal of two enormous piers and caissons at Haskell’s Beach in Goleta that were built in the 1920s and remained operational until the 1990s. After Venoco, the owner of the leases for Piers 421, filed for bankruptcy in 2017, the leases reverted to the state and the Commission embarked on the process of decommissioning the piers. At one point, the shoreline was marked by 13 oil producing piers. Now the final two piers and caissons are gone, restoring coastal access, and eliminating public safety and environmental threats.  

Image of Lt. Governor on Haskells Beach in Goleta for a Press Conference

Image of before photos of Haskells Beach

On Tuesday, Lt. Governor Kounalakis visited another major decommissioning project, Platform Holly, an oil rig located two miles from the shore of Goleta. Holly is one of 27 oil platforms along the California coast from Huntington Beach to Point Arguello. The platform stopped producing oil in 2015 following the Refugio Beach oil spill, which saw over 140,000 gallons of oil leak from an onshore pipeline. The pipeline was a major connector for oil production facilities, including Platform Holly. 

Platform Holly was also previously owned by Venoco and after they filed for bankruptcy, the state took control of the platform to protect public health and safety and prevent damage to marine environment. Now the state of California through the Commission and other agencies, have been working to stabilize the platform and eventually decommission it. To date, all 30 of Holly’s underground oil and gas wells have been blocked and there is no longer a risk that hazardous hydrogen sulfide gas could be released. The Commission anticipates it will begin work later this year on an Environmental Impact Report to inform the decommissioning of Holly and its underwater infrastructure.  

Image of Lt. Governor on a boat to Platform Holly in Goleta

Image of oil and gas seepage in Goleta

Image of Lt. Governor on Platform Holly

What They’re Saying: 

“The removal of the deteriorated Ellwood Oil Field piers ensures greater safety for our community,” said State Senator Monique Limón. “We can now both see and walk down our beach which has been restored for safe use by the public and surrounding ecosystems. I look forward to collaborating with State Lands as they continue to work on more projects throughout the Santa Barbara Channel.” 

“This significant milestone marks a monumental step forward in protecting our precious coastal environment and fostering a sustainable future for our state” said Assemblymember Gregg Hart. “I commend Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis, the California State Lands Commission, and City of Goleta for your vision, leadership, and dedication to safeguard our coastlines and preserve our natural resources.” 

“For nearly a century, this region has dealt with oil and gas extraction, including environmental disasters from spills and leaks onshore and offshore along our sensitive marine coastline,” said Mayor of Goleta Paula Perotte. “City of Goleta Staff and officials have been working diligently alongside the State Lands Commissioners and staff for more than a decade to remove old oil works, some dating back to the 1930s, from our coastline. The successful collaboration is representative of the City of Goleta and State’s ability to collaborate, share resources, and persevere to restore our shared coastline to pre-oil era conditions.” 

“This is a momentous occasion marking the end of oil and gas production at the Ellwood Oil Fields – a relic of how energy was produced in the last century,” said Santa Barbara County Supervisor Joan Hartmann. “The timing of the final decommissioning at this site perfectly coincides with another momentous occasion just up the coast from here – construction on the Central Coast’s first wind farm was completed earlier this month, ushering a new era of clean energy production in this beautiful place we call home.”  

The Commission owns and manages millions of acres of public land, including tide and submerged lands and the beds of navigable rivers, streams, lakes, bays, estuaries, inlets, and straits. It also owns hundreds of thousands of acres of land, known as school lands, that are scattered across the desert and in northeastern California. 

Click here for more information about the oil pier removal project.  

Click here for more information about the decommissioning project for Platform Holly.