Last week, oil company Venoco Energy formally threw in the hat and announced the cessation of their efforts to expand oil drilling off the Santa Barbara coast.
In a letter to the State Lands Commission, the company withdrew their proposal to construct 40 new wells in the South Ellwood Oil Field adjacent to the pre-existing Platform Holly. The nearly decade-old plan from Venoco has seen abundant controversy since its proposal. Platform Holly, built more than 40 years ago, is one of the primary points of contention in the proposal due to multiple malfunctions since its construction.
According to Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Santa Barbara Environmental Defense Center, Platform Holly no longer functions properly.
“When it was originally built, Platform Holly was never meant to last this long,” Krop said. “It was temporarily shut down in 1999, and we look forward to the day when it will no longer be there.”
Venoco’s Community Relations Manager Lisa Rivas, said the company is foregoing the proposal in order to focus on projects elsewhere.
“Here at the company, we have limited capital to put into our projects,” Rivas said. “We are currently focusing on the Monterey Shale project, which did not allow us to also take on the Ellwood project at this time.”
Regardless of the company’s decision, Chair of Environmental Studies at UCSB Josh Schimel said it was unlikely the proposal would succeed in the future.
“I suspect that they decided that the potential benefit was not worth their fight,” Schimel said. “This was a fight that they were not likely to win.”
Krop said Venoco’s decision to withdraw the proposal will ensure the safety of the coastal environment and community.
“We are all very excited about the implications that the decision has,” Krop said. “It is so important to keep Ellwood clean not only because of the ecological reserves, but because so many people use the beach there.”
In spite of the company’s decision, Rivas said Venoco is not entirely removing its presence from the area.
“We are not shutting down all drilling in the area, just the one site in Ellwood,” Rivas said. “Right now we are focused on getting the pipeline in, getting rid of the barge and transporting the oil in a safer manner.”