California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis (third from left) was at Haskell's Beach on Monday to say goodbye to oil piers on the shoreline. Among the celebrants were Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte (left), Coastal Band of Chumash Nation Treasurer Rosemary Castillo, State Controller Malia M. Cohen, and County Supervisor Laura Capps. | Credit: Courtesy

The shores of Haskell’s Beach in Goleta echoed with applause and emphatic “thank you”s on Monday as representatives from the city and the State Lands Commission, alongside the general public, celebrated the removal of the last two oil piers from the coast of California. “With Piers 421 removed, we are closing a major chapter in California’s history,” said Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis.

Started in 2019 — and 320 truckloads of debris and nearly 13,000 hours of labor later — the process to remove the nearly 100-year-old oil piers was completed in February. The decommissioning included the removal of 6,000 tons of hazardous soil, concrete, and steel. The effort came as a collaboration between the City of Goleta and the State Lands Commission with a fervent backing of community support.

“If you want to think of one word to describe the Santa Barbara community, it would be environmentalism,” said County Supervisor Laura Capps. As a local, Capps recounted her childhood trips to the beach, which she left covered in tar — a reminder of the oil activity on our coastline. To Capps, the removal of these piers symbolized a commitment to a healthier future for generations of Santa Barbara residents to come.

“The removal of these oil piers embodies a larger vision of how we want to see California,” said Kounalakis. “This project represents an important step in our state’s commitment to transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy.”

“I hope this project will serve as a beacon of light for any other fossil-fuel-addicted states that are out there, and that they will follow our lead and continue to decommission,” said Malia Cohen, California’s controller.

In discussing this transition, Cohen asserted California’s commitment to a “just transition” and upholding environmental justice. Since its conception, the oil and gas industry has pushed a disproportionate amount of pollution on communities of color. By lessening our reliance on these industries, Cohen hopes to see not only ecological rehabilitation, but social equity as well.

Although this is a momentous milestone in California’s fight against climate change, all who were present made it clear that phasing out fossil fuels will not just happen overnight. “This transition happens one project at a time,” said Kounalakis. “As we celebrate today, let’s look forward to the work we still have to do.”


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