California State Lands Commission, Tribal, State, and Local Partners Celebrate Successful Removal of the Last Remaining Oil Production Shorezone Piers in California

Jun 5, 2023 | Oil and Gas, Press Release

Eleni Kounalakis, Lieutenant Governor, Chair
Malia M. Cohen, California State Controller, Member
Joe Stephenshaw, Director of Department of Finance, Member

Media Contact:
Sheri Pemberton, Chief of External Affairs
916.477.0691 |

For Immediate Release

CITY OF GOLETA – Today, against the backdrop of the picturesque southern California shoreline, the State Lands Commission and state and local leaders showcased the successful removal of the last two oil production shorezone piers in California, restoring the coastline and marking an enormous milestone in California’s transition away from fossil fuels.

California once again reaffirms its steadfast commitment towards a future free of fossil fuels.” said Lieutenant Governor and Commission Chair, Eleni Kounalakis. “The successful removal of the state’s last two oil piers showcases the power of collective action and California’s determination to restore our coastal waters and leave a legacy of environmental resilience for generations to come.

Removing these last remaining oil piers is truly a watershed moment and a particularly significant milestone in our work to transition away from fossil fuels,” said Malia M. Cohen, Commissioner and State Controller. “We look forward to bringing the same collaboration and teamwork that underpinned this project to the other oil and gas decommissioning projects the Commission is spearheading.

Removing these large, antiquated oil production piers is a tangible example of our commitment to clean energy,” said Joe Stephenshaw, Commissioner and Director of the Department of Finance. “We’re excited to take the same teamwork and diligence involved in this project and apply it to additional offshore oil and gas decommissioning projects as we continue our work toward a carbon-neutral future.

The removal of the deteriorated Ellwood Oil Field piers ensures greater safety for our community,” said Senator Limón. “We can now both see and walk down our beach, which has been restored for safe use by the public and surrounding ecosystems. I look forward to collaborating with State Lands as they continue to work on more projects throughout the Santa Barbara Channel.

As we move toward a future beyond fossil fuels, we must address their historic legacy,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “Removing the last of the defunct oil piers along the Santa Barbara coast is a big milestone. It improves coastal access, recreation and enjoyment while restoring natural habitat for fish and wildlife. I’m proud of the work of the State Lands Commission to drive this environmental restoration over so many years.

This significant milestone marks a monumental step forward in protecting our precious coastal environment and fostering a sustainable future for our state,” said Assemblymember Hart. “I commend the California State Lands Commission and City of Goleta for your vision, leadership, and dedication to safeguard our coastlines and preserve our natural resources.

This is a momentous occasion marking the end of oil and gas production at the Ellwood Oil Field – a relic of how energy was produced in the last century,” said Joan Hartmann, 3rd District Supervisor. “The timing of the final decommissioning at this site perfectly coincides with another momentous occasion just up the coast from here – construction on the Central Coast’s first wind farm was completed earlier this month, ushering a new era of clean energy production in this beautiful place we call home.

With the removal of the State Lease 421 wells, caissons, and piers, Haskell’s Beach as we stand here today looks more like 1923 than 2023,” said City of Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte.” “The old oil and gas era legacy wells and piers from the 421 mineral lease are gone and no longer pose an oil spill threat. This is a significant accomplishment for the safety of our community and ocean environment.

Our community is excited about restoring the Ellwood area to its natural state. The removal of the Ellwood oil piers follows the termination of the Ellwood marine terminal and will soon be followed by the removal of the oil storage tanks next to Devereux,” said Linda Krop, Chief Counsel of the Environmental Defense Center. “The removal of these industrial facilities from our beaches and bluffs will restore a unique and precious recreation area that also provides habitat to amazing seabirds and other wildlife. We applaud the State Lands Commission for removing the dilapidated oil infrastructure and restoring natural beauty on the Central Coast.

Today is a celebration of effective government teamwork built upon and motivated by decades of citizen perseverance, spurred by the 1969 oil spill that our local activists catapulted into the global Earth Day movement,” said Santa Barbara County District 2 Supervisors Laura Capps who represents the area. “As a kid born shortly after that catastrophe, I played on these beaches that were then laden with tar and grew up with deep respect for the environmental activism that is now part of the Santa Barbara County DNA. The removal of pier 421 signals a more sustainable future and reinforces our collective belief to protect our marine ecosystems and wildlife – ensuring its health and beauty for the generations of kids to come.

In the early 1900s, a large latticework of oil-producing piers and onshore storage and processing facilities spanned the Santa Barbara coastline. The recently decommissioned oil piers and caissons, the last two remaining oil piers, were installed nearly a century ago to develop oil and gas from the Ellwood Oil Field. The deteriorating piers and caissons were a physical coastal obstruction and a potential public safety and environmental hazard.

The Commission embarked on the decommissioning project after Venoco filed for bankruptcy and relinquished its leases to the state. The State Lands Commission owns and manages millions of acres of public land, including tide and submerged lands and the beds of navigable rivers, streams, lakes, bays, estuaries, inlets, and straits. It also owns hundreds of thousands of acres of land, known as school lands, that are scattered across the desert and in northeastern California, and works to prevent oil spills at marine oil terminals and invasive species introductions from vessels arriving at California ports.

Information about the oil pier removal project is available on the Commission’s website.