After Heal the Ocean met with State Lands Commission staff and other stakeholders in August 2015 on a plan of action to cap the leaking Becker onshore oil well, we engaged Dudek Engineering and Environmental consultants to apply to the Ocean Protection Council for $900,000 in Proposition 1 funding for the project. Eligibility for the grant required the initiation of CEQA (environmental analysis) by the application deadline, prompting Heal the Ocean to locate funding for the estimated $200K to complete CEQA. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to identify a source of funding for CEQA, either locally or at the state level, funding failed to materialize in time for the grant deadline.
Meanwhile, State Lands Commission moved forward on Phase I of the Becker well project (pictured above), which included marking and measuring the well. But the Becker well still needs capping. While HTO continued pressure on state and county officials for help in CEQA funding, Assemblyman Das Williams successfully included line items into the State's proposed budget for FY 2016/2017 for the $200K needed for CEQA, as well as an additional $700K for FY 2017/2018 to apply to actual project construction. Significant public advocacy will be needed to keep these funds in place through the end of the budget process. Meanwhile, HTO's plan is to make sure that CEQA is underway when the OPC grant funding cycle comes around again in 2017, in the event that more funding is needed, or if the requested budget items don't hold.
Of course, Becker well is just one uncapped oil problem along the California Coast, and in January 2016, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson introduced SB 900, the Coastal Oil Well Cleanup Act. The bill, among other things, will create a program to address over 200 oil wells in California’s coastal waters that are improperly abandoned and leaking oil into the ocean (learn more here). We applaud Senator Jackson for her work on this issue, while we remain dedicated to getting the Becker Onshore Well sealed sooner rather than later.