Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 7
Venoco declares bankruptcy, ends drilling in state waters
By BRENNA SWANSTON
Venoco announced on April 17 that it has filed for bankruptcy, and the company expects to sell or close down some of its assets, including an oil platform in Santa Barbara County.
As a result, Venoco’s Platform Holly offshore of Goleta will shut down permanently—welcome news for environmentalists who have long advocated for the platform’s closure. Operations at the Goleta Beach pier will also officially end, though oil production from the pier has been on hold since an oil spill in 1994.
“This is wonderful news for our community,” Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Center (EDC), told the Sun. “The EDC and our clients have been opposing Venoco’s plans to expand their drilling operations here in Santa Barbara County for a couple of decades, and we as a community have been faced with the impacts of operations from Platform Holly as well as the Ellwood onshore processing plant.”
The Ellwood onshore facility is expected to shut down as well, since its only purpose is to process oil and gas from Platform Holly and the Goleta Beach pier, Krop said.
A large factor in Venoco’s bankruptcy filing is the ongoing closure of Plains All American Pipeline 901, according to a company statement from Mike Wracher, Venoco’s chief operating officer. The pipeline was closed following the 2015 oil spill on Refugio State Beach, and without the line available to transport oil, Platform Holly has been out of production for nearly two years.
On top of that, Venoco’s repeated attempts to expand offshore drilling operations have met voter resistance in recent years.
“Today’s filing is the result of unfortunate circumstances impacting the company’s financial strength,” Wracher said in the statement. “We have pursued a number of market-based and regulatory solutions to address these challenges during the last year. Despite these considerable efforts, our financial position now compels us to take action.”
Prior to declaring bankruptcy, Venoco quitclaimed its state leases in the South Ellwood Field offshore of Santa Barbara County, returning them to the state. Because state law prohibits new oil drilling leases in state waters, which comprise waters up to 3 miles offshore, the lease areas will become parts of a state sanctuary and be protected from any future leasing, Krop said.
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) issued a statement applauding Platform Holly’s closure, saying she was “excited and pleased” by the news.
“This marks the end of an era of offshore oil production in this location, and we will never again go back,” Jackson said in the statement.
She acknowledged that impacts of the decommissioning process would include job losses, but went on: “Nonetheless, there’s no doubt that today’s announcement helps us move forward to a future that is cleaner, greener, and less dependent on fossil fuels.”
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