Shutting down oil rigs poses environmental dilemma, leaders say

Shutting down oil rigs poses environmental dilemma, leaders say

Nearly half a dozen oil facilities off the Long Beach coast are currently being reviewed for a complete shutdown, but energy stakeholders, scientists and fishermen are concerned about the environmental harm that different methods of decommissioning may pose.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) as well as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has been tasked by oil and gas companies with decommissioning, or ending operations for, the decaying structures while resolving the complex erosion and contamination problems they pose.

Statewide, there are currently four offshore platforms (three located in Orange County and one in Santa Barbara), five man-made islands (one located in Ventura County and four in Long Beach), and one offshore pier in Santa Barbara specifically made for oil drilling, according to the California State Lands Commission.

Out of these facilities, three of them (Rincon Island in Ventura County, Platform Holly in Santa Barbara, and Ellwood Pier in Santa Barbara) are in the process of abandonment and decommissioning, according to Marina Voskanian, the Division Chief of Mineral Resources Management for the California State Lands Commission.

During the forum, Dr. Ann Scarborough Bull, a project scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara Marine Science Institute, explained how both complete removal and partial removal of the rigs pose environmental and marine life problems.

Full removal of the platforms, Bull said, can disturb marine life, since the structures began to house newly-adapted marine ecosystems for years.

Marine life that has inhabited the bottom portion of these platforms will be heavily disrupted, killing off the hundreds of organisms that unexpectedly found sanctuary there, she said.

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