On November 6th, 2019, we concluded the Global Citizens Club 2019 conference series on “Greening our Infrastructure.” With the company of over 100 Santa Barbara community members and four key panelists, “Designing Dreams from Derricks” focused on the new discussion of the decommissioning of oil platforms off the coast of Santa Barbara.
With a controversial topic on the agenda, the passionate community brought topics of repurposing the platforms, concern for marine life, and liability concerns. The panelists and attendees posed forward-thinking research and facts, sparking the potential for solutions for the soon-to-be decommissioned fossil fuel assets, such as the nearby Platform Holly.
With the decommissioning process of the derricks underway, it’s important for everyone to understand the potential benefits and risks of repurposing these assets. Repurposed, they can support renewable energy resources (i.e. offshore wind, and eventually wave, energy) and eco-tourism activities while also promoting the natural growth of marine life reliant on the rig’s lattice “reef” infrastructure. Of course, there also is money and risk to consider; any future revenue streams flowing to and from the platforms, the costs of removing and remediating oil pumping equipment, and long-term maintenance and liability must be factored into any plan.
Welcomed at the Belmond El Encanto Hotel, the conference on platform decommissioning began after an introductory meet and greet. The World Business Academy’s Chief of Staff Kristy Jansen kicked off the event and mentioned some upcoming local events on the same topic. Next, the Academy’s Founding President Rinaldo Brutoco doubled as the moderator by posing the following debate: what are the facts underlying the decision to either repurpose or fully remove stranded oil platforms off of California’s coast? Four dedicated experts were there to offer factual insight into the growing topic: Seth Blackmon, Claire Gonzales, Milton Love, and Kim Selkoe.
First to the podium was Seth Blackmon, California State Lands Commission attorney. He spoke heavily on the liability concerns, paying attention to state’s perspective on the potential ways to move forward with the platforms.
Claire Gonzales, marine scientist at Blue Latitudes, followed with her marine expertise. She approached the topic with data in support of allowing the bases of the platforms to remain in the interest of marine life. She advocated for a marine conservation approach to mitigate the elimination of biodiversity.
Up next was Milton Love, PhD, a marine ecology researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara. With his touch of humor, Love enlightened the audience with countless case studies related to marine life on and near the platforms.
Kim Selkoe brought a very interesting perspective to the discussion as the Executive Director of Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara. The fishing industry is at a crossroads between fishing safety and efficiency and marine wellbeing. Regardless, Selkoe agreed that there are both risks and potentials involved in fully removing the platforms.
Following the panelists, the room lit up with open debate and conversation. Community members addressed the room with questions about the details and logistics of repurposing. Decommissioning is complex and has not one, but many feasible options moving forward. With government officials, industries, nonprofits, scientists, and the general public working together, Santa Barbara is only beginning this conversation.
More details and the recording of the event will be posted next week.