CA State Lands Commission and Heal the Ocean: Summerland Oil Updates

By Joanne A Calitri   |   September 5, 2023
First District Supervisor Das Williams, Heal the Ocean’s Harry Rabin, and Walter Scott from California State Lands Commission (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

A presentation of the status and action plan regarding the oil wells and seepage issues at Summerland Beach was done by Petroleum Production Engineer at the California State Lands Commission (CSLC) Walter Scott with Harry Rabin and Hillary Hauser of Heal the Ocean (HTO) at a public meeting held by the Summerland Citizens Association on August 23, at the Summerland Beach park.

Key points made by Scott were: “Summerland oil wells date back to at least 1890. Most were left, not abandoned, from the 1910-20s by companies as there were no regulations. State Lands started in 1938. Many say that Summerland was the first offshore drilling area in the world. Before anyone was drilling wells, the native American Indians used the oil they found naturally seeping up to seal their canoes and boats to make them waterproof. From there, that is where these companies figured out where to drill. There have been several attempts over the years to remediate that these wells were not properly capped and always leaking oil. Through lobbying, and working with HTO and Summerland Citizens Association, State Lands can work on the situation in a more proper way. We do not use conventional methods as we do not know what is inside the wells and they are very old and complicated. So CSLC and HTO decided to encase the wells, fill them with cement and cap them with a steel cap. We started with this method in 2018 with the Becker 1 well. Capping oil wells named Treadwell 1 and 5 was interrupted by Hurricane Hilary. Work will continue for the next 10 days and be checked as completed before vacating the area. The information from the geological study being done now will be made public on the CSLC website dedicated to the remedial work at Summerland.”

Rabin spoke next and shared, “There are roughly 412 wells in the area, with 206 offshore. The geological study will map the area for wells, fault lines, and reservoirs, find out what wells are connected, and other data. This area is a 100-year legacy of living with wells that were unregulated and improperly abandoned. I’ve been involved in this process for seven years since we found the first one leaking, and I decided to do a film on it. This is where the first offshore wells started and propagated around the world. We are learning how to abandon these wells properly. With the geological study data, we can hope to cap 10 to 15 wells at a time, and gain more funding. The state funding to do this type of work is for the whole coast, and most of that money is going to Summerland. Locals can help by calling into HTO to report any seepage or incidents. We can send a drone out to check the area. For the documentary film I’ve been doing, Jeannine’s offered their restaurant to show the teaser. We have footage from 1968 CSLC sent someone with dynamite and concrete to go around to seal the wells – that was a solution back then. We may have the best solution now, which may stop most of this. You will always have oil here, just like in Isla Vista, but it will be something more you can tolerate. After capping the wells, it’s HTO’s job to make sure there are no leaks going into the ocean. Truthfully every well we’ve done, there has been oil that has gone back into the ocean by nature of the live well-head. So, we came up with the cofferdam to contain the oil and we have contained it.”

Refer to the HD live videos with this report for detailed information:

At the meeting were Summerland Citizens Association board members Phyllis Noble and Cathy Shelburne, Summerland Beautiful President D’Arcy Cornwall, and First District Supervisor Das Williams with his staff Kadie McShirley and Darcel Elliott.



You might also be interested in...