Oversight hearing on decommissioning offshore oil production off the coast of California

The Assembly Select Committee on the Orange County Oil Spill conducted an oversight hearing (video) on the Decommissioning of Offshore Oil Infrastructure along the California Coast. This was the second in a series of hearings following the oil spill that occurred in Orange County in October of 2021.

“A comprehensive and collaborative strategy is essential to successfully phase out offshore oil production off the coast of California,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, Chair of the Select Committee on the Orange County Oil Spill (D-Irvine). “The considerations for decommissioning are myriad and very complex. Today’s hearing and future conversations with stakeholders on this topic will help shape the coming years of making our state a greener and safer place for all Californians.”

Panelists were asked to detail the history of the state’s role in offshore oil lease agreements and past decommissioning efforts. Participants also described the risks posed by offshore oil production to marine life in addition to the environmental impacts of decommissioning. These discussions included the viability of options like “rigs-to-reefs,” turning abandoned and decommissioned offshore rigs into artificial reefs. Labor union representatives also joined the discussion to highlight how decommissioning efforts affect workers.

This oversight hearing made clear the important considerations that policymakers, environmentalists and industry partners must take into account amid plans to decommission offshore oil production in the state waters of California, including environmental impacts, cost, liability and potential job losses.

This oversight hearing marks the second following the Orange County Oil Spill to get to the bottom of what happened, ensure that the responsible party is held fully accountable, and identify the steps needed to ensure that an environmental disaster like this does not occur again.


“It is time we end the narrative that stronger regulations and accountability will hurt petroleum companies, especially when their industry continues to put billions of dollars of our coastal economy at risk and, more importantly, threatens our environment,” said Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D -San Fernando Valley), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources. “California’s coast has some of the most diverse marine life in the world, and this recent oil spill only further proves that offshore drilling in federal waters must end to protect our coastal ecosystem. I want to thank Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris for her leadership in organizing another oversight hearing so that we can evaluate what the state can do to prevent future tragedies from happening.

“California’s coast is irreplaceable and we must do everything in our power to hold the oil industry accountable for their destructive actions. If we have learned anything since this tragic and avoidable oil spill, it’s that we must take a more aggressive approach to ending offshore drilling. I am appreciative of both Assemblymember Petrie-Norris’ and Chair Rivas’ leadership on this issue and look forward to hearing more from our State’s leading experts,” said Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 3 on Climate Crisis, Resources, Energy, and Transportation.

“The State Building Trades have built the vast majority of California’s renewable energy, we have set the bar worldwide for what it means to be green, and we will continue to push those goals,” said Erin Lehane, Legislative Director for the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. “But when we talk about a ‘just transition,’ a term that the building trades meets with apprehension – we do not anticipate any transition where our industrial workers are moved into a profession that is not an industrial trade. Our intention and our fight are in maintaining the jobs that our members currently have, currently love and enable them to feed their families.”

“I want to thank Chairs Petrie-Norris, Rivas, and Bloom for convening this hearing about strategies to decommission offshore oil production,” said Jennifer Lucchesi, the California State Lands Commission Executive Officer. “It was a pleasure to participate and share knowledge about the Commission’s experience decommissioning the South Ellwood facilities in Southern California, and to provide background and context about the State’s remaining offshore oil and gas leases.”

“We are excited that oil platforms are being decommissioned off the coast of California,” said Linda Krop, Chief Counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, a public interest law firm that has been working on decommissioning issues for more than 25 years. “These decommissioning projects mark the end of an era. As agencies review proposals for decommissioning, it is important for them to follow the law and ensure that decisions are based on the best available science.”

“Last October’s egregious oil spill off Orange County’s coast was another reminder that offshore drilling is a major threat to California’s coastal ecosystems and needs to end,” said Damon Nagami, director of the NRDC’s (Natural Resources Defense Council) Southern California Ecosystems Project. “As operations wind down and platforms are decommissioned, oil companies should be held fully accountable and responsible for cleaning up their mess. Hearings like this one can help do that.”

“California’s offshore oil and gas platforms have developed into de facto reefs and are some of the most productive ecosystems on the planet. Repurposing these platforms as permanent artificial reefs provides an alternative to complete removal, in which the wells are sealed and capped and the jacket structure is modified to remain in the water column so that it can continue to function as an important marine habitat,” said Amber Sparks, Co-President of the Blue Latitudes Foundation.

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