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Reviving ExxonMobil’s Offshore Oil Platforms: The Uphill Battle Sable Offshore Corp Faces

Katie Davis: The Challenge for Sable Offshore in Reviving ExxonMobil’s Offshore Oil Platforms

In an ambitious move, Sable Offshore Corp, a nascent energy enterprise, has unveiled intentions to swiftly rejuvenate the dormant offshore oil platforms owned by ExxonMobil along the Gaviota Coast. This initiative, however, is poised to encounter substantial pushback due to concerns over environmental hazards and potential oil spills threatening the pristine Santa Barbara County coastline.

Historically, ExxonMobil’s platforms stood as formidable contributors to the offshore oil production in the Santa Barbara Channel, accounting for 90% of the output. Yet, the glory days saw a decline from their zenith in the 1990s, culminating in a major setback in 2015. A catastrophic pipeline rupture unleashed 142,800 gallons of crude into the ecologically vibrant Pacific, inflicting fatal impacts on marine life, disrupting tourism, and enforcing closures of beaches and fisheries. Consequently, the operations have been at a standstill for nearly nine years.

The disaster underscored the dire state of the infrastructure, particularly the corroding pipeline deemed unfit for oil transportation. Legal attempts following the incident sought to prevent any efforts to reinitiate or even insinuate the resumption of pipeline usage for oil transport by Plains All-American Pipeline, the operator found guilty of negligence.

In response to these challenges, ExxonMobil proposed alternatives including oil trucking and constructing a new pipeline, which were ultimately rebuffed or withdrawn due to safety concerns and potential environmental ramifications. Faced with these obstacles, Sable Offshore has stepped in, funded by a substantial loan from ExxonMobil and additional capital from Flame Acquisition Corp. Still, without a solid track record, Sable Offshore ventures into highly speculative terrain.

The revival efforts will clash against a sturdy coalition of organizations and confront regulatory barriers. Skepticism abounds, particularly with claims of immediate approval from the state Fire Marshal’s Office to restart the compromised pipeline. Moreover, the expiration of the lease for another crucial pipeline, non-renewal by the State Lands Commission, and the outdated nature of the 40-year-old platforms further complicate Sable Offshore’s path.

Public opinion in California significantly sways against offshore oil drilling, with 72% opposition reflecting a strong predisposition towards environmental conservation over potential economic gains from oil extraction. Both the State Lands Commission and Santa Barbara County hold pivotal roles in the approval process, with overarching concerns about environmental accountability and liability.

Beyond the immediate risks of oil spills, the resumption of these platforms contradicts broader state and local agendas aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating air pollution. The operation historically marked significant pollution statistics for a range of hazardous emissions, impacting public health and contributing to severe respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, exacerbated by environmental studies linking pollution to increased COVID-19 mortality rates.

Considering the historical pollution footprint, the imminent threat of offshore oil spills, the absence of a secure transportation method for the crude, and the disengagement of principal companies from the project, the proposition to restart these platforms raises critical environmental and health concerns. The narrative tilts favorably towards a definitive closure and responsible decommissioning of these oil platforms, aligning with environmental preservation efforts and public health priorities.

Ava Bloom

Ava Bloom is an eco-influencer and sustainability coach who has transformed her commitment to a zero-waste lifestyle into a catalyst for change. Through her engaging social media presence and hands-on workshops, Ava teaches the beauty and feasibility of sustainable living. Her journey is one of continuous learning and sharing, from eco-friendly home practices to advocating for sustainable fashion. Ava's articles are a treasure trove of tips, tricks, and motivational insights, empowering readers to make small changes that have a big impact on our planet.

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