As we transition from petrochemical extraction to renewable energy production in our coastal zone, it is critical that we recognize the social and cultural histories embodied in the critical, aging infrastructure.

Why does this project matter?

Twenty-three oil and gas platforms currently in federal waters on the outer continental shelf offshore California are—or are approaching—fifty years of age. This project establishes a framework to assess the long-term social, cultural, and technological impacts that these platforms represent while supporting their removal or possible reuse for more environmentally sustainable purposes.

What is ESA doing to help?

Working with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), ESA completed the Marine Infrastructure Offshore California Historic Context to guide Section 106 compliance as the platforms are decommissioned. We developed a comprehensive historic context statement for offshore oil development from 1896 through the present day, created an evaluation framework for applying the National Register criteria, and developed a mitigation strategy to support NEPA compliance. This work included documentation and analysis of the site of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, which is widely considered the pivotal event that led to creation of the modern environmental compliance framework as well as the birth of Earth Day.

Map of sites involved in the project

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"It was fascinating to learn about the development of the regulatory environment and the technological developments needed to work within the challenging natural terrain offshore California. It is a challenge to document difficult histories and to attempt to reconcile their historical influence against the destruction they caused. It was a challenge that required a true cross-regional collaboration for this project. It was great to work with colleges from all regions on the west coast and I am proud of the work that ESA produced to document this history of offshore oil development in California."

Becky Urbano, Project Manager, Architectural Historian



Client Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)

Location Santa Barbara Channel, California

Market Energy


First evaluation framework developed for offshore energy infrastructure

Involved documentation and analysis of the site of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill

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