The Santa Barbara oil rigs
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The history of the Santa Barbara oil rigs begins with James Cook, the 1792 English explorer who anchored his ship in the Santa Barbara channel and noticed the “thick, slimy substance that covered the sea.” He said it looked like “dissolved tar was floating on the surface, which covered the ocean in all directions within limits of view.” In 1896, at least 187 offshore oil wells were drilled in the Summerland Oil Field in Santa Barbara County but is currently inactive. In 1969, the Union Oil Company discovered that large amounts of oil had been seeping through the seafloor near one of the drilling wells. At that time, oil covered about 35 miles of Santa Barbara’s coastline. This disaster quickly turned public opinion against California’s offshore drilling.
In response to the oil spill, US Secretary of Interior Walter Hickel, removed 53 square miles of federal tracts in the Santa Barbara area from gas and oil leasing. Despite such bans, production has continued on some existing leases. According to the Santa Barbara Independent, “there are still 43 leases that remain active from federal lease sales that happened before 1984. And in state waters, there are still nine active rigs that were built before the Santa Barbara oil spill.”
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management developed the Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program) for gas and oil development in accordance with the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, in the Pacific OCS Region, twenty-three oil and gas production facilities have been installed in Federal waters. All of these facilities are located off the coast of California. Twenty of these facilities produce oil and gas, one is a processing facility, and two are currently in the process of decommissioning. Six companies are operating offshore oil and gas facilities in the Pacific Region. Information about these facilities has been organized by operator and by platform.
Many large and undeveloped oil fields have been discovered north of Point Conception, Santa Barbara. Seven undeveloped leases contain about one billion barrels of recoverable oil and 500 billion cubic feet of recoverable gas. This oil can be produced by drilling from platforms already in existence.
The Trump Administration is pushing for more oil drilling. As directed in the Secretary’s Order 3350 (May 1, 2017) and the Executive Order 13795 (April 28, 2017), the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is starting a process to develop a new National OCS Program for 2019 through 2024. This aims for more American offshore drilling. Executive Order 13795 of April 28, 2017 states that this plan is needed “in order to maintain global leadership in energy innovation, exploration, and production” and it is a “plan that ensures energy security and economic vitality for decades to come. The energy and minerals produced from lands and waters under Federal management are important to a vibrant economy and to our national security.” As a result, The Bureau of Land Management is planning to open up California to more drilling.