In August, the Commission approved the Rincon Phase 2 Feasibility Study and staff’s recommendations for preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). On October 4, the Commission released a Notice of Preparation for an EIR for Phase 2. The proposed project for the EIR will further analyze the Reuse Alternative from the final Feasibility Study in addition to several alternatives. On October 20, Commission staff hosted two public scoping meetings in the City of Carpinteria.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Where is the onshore site located relative to Rincon Island?
The onshore site is located 1.3 miles east of Rincon Island, downcoast from Mussel Shoals, at 5750 W. Pacific Coast Highway, Ventura. A map of Rincon Island and the onshore site can be found here.
- What work was included in Phase 1?
Phase 1 work included: 1) safely managing daily facilities operations; 2) ensuring federal and state regulatory compliance; 3) designing and executing well plugging and abandonment of 75 state wells (25 onshore and 50 offshore), as well as two orphaned Hobson Fee wells that were not part of the state lease operations; 4) decommissioning and remediating (when required) surface facilities and oil and gas assets covering former state leases PRC 145, PRC 410, and PRC 1466; 5) repairing the causeway to assure safety and withstand loads sufficient to remove of surface facilities; and 6) preparing Rincon Island, the causeway, and onshore site for caretaker status.
While the bulk of Phase 1 work is complete, the Commission’s Phase 1 contractor, Driltek, Inc., will remain onsite to maintain the safety and security of the onshore and offshore sites during the caretaker status period. This will maintain an on-site presence, ensure that the remaining facilities and infrastructure are maintained in safe working condition, and provide site security while Phase 2 proceeds.
- How long did Phase 1 work take to complete?
Phase 1 work began in July 2018. Onshore well plug and abandonment work began in September 2018 and was completed in August 2019, with the exception of one injection well, which was completed in May 2021. Offshore well plug and abandonment began in January 2019 and was completed in January 2021. Causeway repair work was initiated and completed in 2020. Derelict oil and gas equipment and surface facilities were decommissioned and removed and the sites placed in caretaker status between late 2020 and June 2021, and the sites were officially in caretaker status as of July 1, 2021.
- How was Phase 1 work funded?
The State appropriated $50.46 million in General Fund monies to the Commission for Phase 1 work. Of this sum, $20 million was appropriated for fiscal year 2018-19, $20 million was appropriated for fiscal year 2019-20, and $10.46 million was appropriated for fiscal year 2020-21.
- How much did Phase 1 work cost?
Based on current spending trends, staff anticipates that the Phase 1 plug and abandonment project will come below the $50.46 million appropriation. It is presently anticipated that total costs through July 1, 2021, when the caretaker status period begins, will be just under $45 million.
During the caretaker status period, costs are estimated to average $475,000 to $500,000 per year, assuming no special circumstances or emergency projects. The remaining State appropriations should exceed the funds needed to maintain the sites during the caretaker status period and provide a cushion in the event of any delay in beginning the Phase 3 decommissioning work, which would extend the anticipated caretaker status period.
- Will there be anyone on site after June 30, 2021?
Yes. Driltek, Inc. will continue to staff Rincon Island with a caretaker to provide site security and maintenance. Site presence will be augmented with roving security.
- What does “caretaker status” mean?
Caretaker status means a safe and secure condition requiring only minimal maintenance and security. Caretaker status occurs after well plug and abandonment and basic site clearance, including the removal of oil and gas facilities and dilapidated infrastructure associated with prior oil and gas operations. During caretaker status, the caretaker (a Driltek, Inc. employee or agent) need only perform basic maintenance on remaining infrastructure and facilities and will maintain an onsite presence to monitor the sites and deter trespassing. Roving security will be employed to monitor the sites when the caretaker is not present.
- Will Rincon Island, the causeway, and the onshore site be accessible to the public during the caretaker status period?
No. These facilities will continue to be secured and closed to the public throughout the caretaker status period. Future public access to these sites will be considered during the Phase 2 analysis and will depend on the ultimate decommissioning plan decided on by the Commission.
- What work will be done in Phase 2?
Phase 2 consists of a feasibility study followed by an analysis and preparation of documentation under CEQA. The feasibility study will include several studies and analyses, including: a desktop study of historical documentation regarding Rincon Island; bathymetric, geophysical, and structural surveys; a coastal engineering study; a baseline environmental assessment; a marine biological study; soil and water assessments; a socio-economic analysis considering environmental justice, commercial fishing, and recreational uses; and an engineering assessment considering alternatives including island removal or retention, causeway removal or retention, onshore site restoration, and reuse options.
- How long will Phase 2 take to complete?
Phase 2 is anticipated to take about 2 years. The Commission released a draft Feasibility Study on March 17 for a 60-day review. After the Commission adopts the Final Feasibility Study, the Commission will determine what type of CEQA analysis and documentation is necessary. The CEQA process is anticipated to take 12 to 15 months to complete if an EIR is necessary. If the Commission determines that a mitigated negative declaration is appropriate, the CEQA process could take less time.
- Will there be opportunities for the public to engage in Phase 2 planning?
Yes. The Commission welcomes and encourages public input, comment, insight, and ideas on the Rincon Decommissioning Project. Commission staff hosted a virtual planning workshop on June 23, 2021, to gather input on potential alternatives for Rincon Island and the onshore site to be analyzed in the feasibility study. We have scheduled a public meeting for May 4 at 6 p.m. to gather further input on the draft feasibility study and project alternatives.
The CEQA process will start after the feasibility study analysis is complete. Additional public comment and input opportunities will be provided during the CEQA process.
You can subscribe to receive Rincon updates if you have not done so already. Subscribers will receive email invitations to town halls and Phase 2 workshops and meetings.
If you have ideas or comments that you would like to submit to Commission staff, you can also email us at Rincon.Phase2@slc.ca.gov.
- Can you share an organizational chart for the Phase 2 consultant?
Yes. Here is the organizational chart for Padre Associates, Inc., the Commission’s Phase 2 consultant.
- Will Rincon Island be removed?
It is undetermined at this time whether Rincon Island will be removed or stay in place. Island removal will be one of the project alternatives considered during Phase 2.
- Will Rincon Island be sold?
No. Rincon Island is on State sovereign tide and submerged lands. The Commission is constitutionally prohibited from selling such lands. To the extent Rincon Island is retained, the State will continue to own Rincon Island and the Commission will continue to manage it. In such event, reuse of the island by any private parties will be considered after submission of a lease application, which staff will process and submit to the Commission for consideration.
- What will Rincon Island and the onshore site be used for in the future?
It is undetermined at this time what Rincon Island and the onshore site will be used for in the future. Potential alternatives for reuse will be considered during Phase 2. The Commission welcomes ideas and applications for reuse.
- When will Phase 3 begin?
Phase 3 will begin after Phase 2 is completed and the Commission decides on the decommissioning project to be implemented. After the Phase 2 feasibility study and CEQA documentation are complete, Commission staff will take these documents to the Commission at a regularly scheduled public meeting with a recommendation on which project alternative to proceed with. The Commission, which consists of three commissioners – Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, State Controller Betty Yee, and Department of Finance Director Keely Bosler – will vote on whether to adopt staff’s recommendation. If the Commission’s decision requires state funding, Commission staff will complete the steps necessary to request and secure funding for the decommissioning project through the State budget process. Depending on the decommissioning project decided on by the Commission, Commission staff will also select a contractor to perform decommissioning work, and/or work with any project applicant(s) that have applied to reuse Rincon Island and/or the onshore site.
- What will Phase 3 work include?
Phase 3, the final phase of the Rincon Decommissioning Project, will consist of decommissioning Rincon Island, the causeway, and the onshore site. What such decommissioning will look like is presently undetermined and will be informed by the outcome of the Phase 2 process. Phase 3 decommissioning could include anything from island and causeway removal to retention and reuse of the island, causeway, and onshore site.
- Who will decide what happens to Rincon Island, the causeway, and the onshore site?
The Commission will make the final decision on which project to implement in Phase 3, and therefore determine the final disposition of Rincon Island, the causeway, and the onshore site.
- Phase 1
Phase 1 is to plug and abandon the 75 State wells on the former leases and perform ancillary work necessary to leave the site in a safe condition pending determination of final site disposition. This includes 25 onshore wells and 50 island wells. Two additional onshore wells, known as Hobson Fee wells, were abandoned in coordination with the Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM), for a total of 77 well abandonments. As of December 2020, all production wells onshore and all offshore wells on Rincon Island were plugged and abandoned in accordance with Commission and CalGEM regulations. After each onshore well was plugged, all well sites, including the cement well cellars and remnants, were cleared and restored to their natural condition, removing any visual trace of the well. Tanks, vessels, piping, and other oil production equipment are also removed during Phase 1. This work, plugging wells first then restoring all well sites at once, reduced costs and minimized delay and risk of pollution. The onshore site clearance work was performed pursuant to an existing conditional use permit and zoning clearance application from the County of Ventura. Offshore site clearance work was performed pursuant to a de minimis waiver issued by the California Coastal Commission. All remaining work ancillary to plug and abandonment both onshore and offshore was completed as of June 30, 2021, and the sites were placed in caretaker status. The Commission’s Phase 1 contractor, Driltek, Inc., will continue to maintain the offshore and onshore sites in caretaker status and provide security until the Commission decides on a decommissioning plan, as outlined below.
- Phase 2
Phase 2 is to develop a decommissioning plan for the disposition of Rincon Island, the onshore facility, and the causeway. This includes a feasibility study and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) documentation.
In September 2020, the Commission released a solicitation for an environmental consultant to conduct a feasibility study and prepare CEQA documentation to evaluate decommissioning alternatives for the disposition of the island, onshore facility, and causeway. Decommissioning alternatives include retention of the island and causeway, retention of the island and removal of the causeway, removal of both the island and causeway, and repurposing options for the island and onshore site, which may involve partial removal of remaining facilities.
Eight highly qualified firms responded. Staff interviewed the four most qualified candidates and selected Padre Associates, Inc. as the Phase 2 contractor. In August 2022, the Commission adopted a proposed project and various alternatives, informed by the final Feasibility Study, to analyze in the EIR for the Phase 2 project. The EIR process will likely take 12 to 15 months to complete. All aspects of Phase 2 will include extensive public outreach and stakeholder engagement. We established an email address where the public can submit decommissioning ideas and comments, which is Rincon.Phase2@slc.ca.gov.
- Phase 3
Phase 3 is to execute a decommissioning plan for the disposition of Rincon Island, the onshore facility, and the causeway. The Phase 3 decommissioning plan will be decided on at the conclusion of Phase 2, after analysis under CEQA. This phase, which will happen when Phase 2 is complete, will require discretionary approval of the proposed decommissioning plan by the Commission, approvals by other governmental agencies, funding and hiring a decommissioning contractor.
Until recently, there were three state oil and gas leases associated with Rincon Island, totaling 1,551 acres of tide and submerged lands in Ventura County (map). In 2014, staff identified regulatory violations that posed a significant risk to the marine environment from an uncontrolled release of oil. The Commission, in partnership with the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, vigorously advocated for the state’s interests before and after Rincon Island Limited Partnership (RILP) filed for bankruptcy in August 2016. On November 29, 2017, the Commission adopted findings and authorized staff to accept a voluntary relinquishment of RILP’s rights in the lease (known as a quitclaim deed) or terminate the leases. On November 30, 2017, the Bankruptcy Court approved a joint motion by the Commission, the chapter 11 trustee, and UBS AG Bank (RILP’s largest secured creditor) to grant the Commission a quitclaim over Rincon Island (Lease No. PRC 1466), which was on December 6, 2017.
The relinquishment means the last operational offshore oil drilling and production facility in the Santa Barbara Channel is over, and RILP’s interests will be added to California’s Coastal Sanctuary. The Commission is now, as it has been, working to ensure public and environmental safety and to protect the state’s public lands and resources.
Previous Staff Reports
- 08/23/2022 (47) – Consider Feasibility Study findings and staff recommendation of Rincon Decommissioning Phase 2 Project and Alternatives to be analyzed in an EIR under CEQA.
- 08/20/2020 (56) – Request authority for the Executive Officer to solicit statements of interest for consultant services, negotiate a fair and reasonable price, and award and execute agreements for a feasibility report and environmental documentation.
- 02/27/2018 (92) – Request authority for the Executive Officer to enter into agreements for access and operations on the former Rincon leases. An update on the Commission’s oil and gas decommissioning projects, including the Becker Well.
- 11/29/2017 (71) – Consider the future disposition of oil and gas leases PRC 1466.1, PRC 410.1, and PRC 145.1, held by Rincon Island Limited Partnership, and proposals submitted on behalf of the bankruptcy estate of Rincon Island Limited Partnership for alternate operators to assume control of those leases.
- 08/17/2017 (77) – An update on Rincon Island Limited Partnership’s operational compliance, chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, and a settlement between the Commission and Atlantic Richfield Company, a prior lessee.
Reports and Briefs
- Letter confirming lease quitclaims 12/18/2017 Letter to Rincon Island Limited Partnership (RILP).
- The Commission ends offshore oil drilling and production at Rincon Island 12/6/2017 Press Release regarding lease quitclaims
- Letter to Trustee 11/14/2017 SLC Letter to Trustee rejecting sale of leases and requesting quitclaim
- Emergency Order 1114 8/8/2016 CalGEM (DOGGR) Emergency Order issued to RILP
- RILP Letter 8/8/2016 CalGEM (DOGGR) Letter to RILP re Emergency Order
- Outstanding Violations and Failure to Cure 7/28/2016 Commission Letter to RILP re outstanding violations and failure to cure
- Notice of Default 4/11/2016 Commission letter to RILP re Notice of Default
Leases, Agreements, Amendments, & Quitclaims
Lease PRC 145.1 – 05/05/1944
PRC 145.1 Amendment – 06/26/1944
PRC 145.1 Amendment – 08/19/1949
PRC 145.1 Amendment – 04/16/1964
PRC 145.1 Amendment – 08/28/1969
PRC 145.1 Amendment – 03/01/1988
PRC 145.1 Amendment – 11/01/1995
PRC 145.1 Quitclaim – 12/12/2017
Lease PRC 410.1 – 04/17/1949
PRC 410.1 Amendment – 04/17/1959
PRC 410.1 Amendment – 07/01/1974
PRC 410.1 Amendment – 06/01/1985
PRC 410.1 Amendment – 08/01/1986
PRC 410.1 Amendment – 10/01/1987
PRC 410.1 Amendment – 11/01/1987
PRC 410.1 Amendment – 11/01/1995
PRC 410.1 Quitclaim – 12/12/2017
Lease PRC 1466.1 – 08/29/1955
PRC 1466.1 Amendment – 07/28/1958
PRC 1466.1 Amendment – 04/25/1968
PRC 1466.1 Agreement – 10/14/1980
PRC 1466.1 Amendment – 06/01/1985
PRC 1466.1 Amendment – 08/01/1986
PRC 1466.1 Amendment – 10/01/1987
PRC 1466.1 Amendment – 11/01/1987
PRC 1466.1 Amendment – 11/01/1995
PRC 1466.1 Quitclaim – 12/06/2017