Planning Commissioners Recommend Denial of ExxonMobil Oil Trucking Project | Local News
After hours of testimony both opposing and supporting ExxonMobil’s request to truck oil to the Santa Maria and Kern County facilities, the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission voted on Wednesday to recommend rejection of the project.
The topic filled Commissioners’ Day as more than 100 people commented before the panel’s deliberations ended with a 3-2 vote to ask staff to prepare and come back with findings of denial.
Commissioners John Parke, C. Michael Cooney and Laura Bridley opposed the trucking plan and supported the rejection recommendation. President Larry Ferini and Commissioner Dan Blough spoke in favor of the trucking proposal.
“On the basis of safety, on the basis of the Class 1 impact on the environment in the event of an accident, I will oppose the project,” said Cooney, who represents the First District, which includes the Cuyama valley.
ExxonMobil has proposed a gradual restart of the Santa Ynez unit – the Hondo, Harmony and Heritage offshore platforms – by first transporting the produced crude oil by truck from the Las Flores Canyon facility.
These rigs have been closed since the Refugio oil spill in 2015, caused by a ruptured Plains All American transportation pipeline that carries oil from the south coast of Santa Barbara County to refineries.
ExxonMobil has offered to truck the oil to the Santa Maria Pumping Station for eventual delivery to the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery in southern San Luis Obispo County or the Pentland Terminal in Kern County.
“In summary, the county can and must approve the interim trucking project given ExxonMobil’s vested right to operate, which would be in jeopardy if the trucking project as currently proposed by staff were rejected,” he said. ExxonMobil lawyer Sherry Scott said.
She argued that the project qualifies and that the amended proposal to truck only oil to Santa Maria and avoid travel on rainy days would mitigate any potential impact on the environment.
The oil would be delivered to the Phillips 66 Santa Maria pumping station on Battles Road, near Rosemary Road east of Highway 101, or to Kern County via Highway 166.
The trucking would last up to seven years and could be followed by a pipeline replacement proposal, which would be considered a separate project in the future.
On Wednesday, a steady stream of people spoke out against the proposal.
“We urge the Planning Commission to recommend that ExxonMobil’s proposal be rejected, as it will exacerbate climate change, threaten our coast with another oil spill, and put our communities, watersheds and environment at risk,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Center. , adding that she was also speaking on behalf of Get Oil Out and the Santa Barbara County Action Network.
Jonathan Ullman of the Los Padres chapter of the Sierra Club said the proposal would involve 24,800 tankers per year.
“This is one of the biggest and most egregious proposals to ever come up in Santa Barbara County, and it is essentially watched not only by California and the people here, but by the world,” said Ullman. “This represents a risk for the public. “
He noted that the route includes narrow, winding and steep roads as well as public campgrounds, sensitive lands and waterways.
“This is the most dangerous plan ever, and I urge you to say no,” Ullman said.
Residents of the Cuyama Valley have expressed concern over traffic on the two-lane Highway 166 with limited passing lanes, sharing tight gaps due to impatient drivers already frustrated with slow trucks.
“We really can’t afford to have more traffic on this road,” said Allison Mann, a resident of the Cuyama Valley. “Please consider us when making your decision. “
Other speakers noted the tax revenue the oil project would generate for schools, public safety and other government uses.
“We support the approval of the Interim Trucking Permit as it will support our local economy and be an important step towards the recovery of COVID-19,” said Glenn Morris, president of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce. “This project balances the economy and jobs with safety, and if passed, it will be subject to the highest safety standards, including regulations specifically related to trucks on the road.”
Ben Oakley of the Western States Petroleum Association also urged the panel to pass on a recommendation for approval.
“The project will bring hundreds of high paying jobs back to our community, providing career opportunities for local workers across the educational spectrum,” Oakley said.
Noting his support for the trucking plan, Blough, who represents the Fifth District on the commission, said he believed tax revenue and jobs would be an appropriate primary consideration for the panel to recommend that the supervisory board approves the project. He and Ferini, who represents Orcutt and Lompoc, were in the minority.
Second District Commissioner Bridley said she saw the proposal as similar to a development plan and noted the condition, saying: ‘If it is to affect comfort, convenience, general well-being, the health and safety of our neighborhood, then this may be considered incompatible.
Among many areas of concern, Parke, the third district commissioner, cited the traffic on Highway 166, adding that he had personal experience of the road and that “it’s pretty damn scary.”
He also found the environmental analysis inadequate since the project would require restarting the steam generator in Las Flores Canyon, thus increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
The commission’s findings – which are to be prepared by staff and formally approved by the panel on Nov. 3 – will ultimately serve as a recommendation for future consideration by the Santa Barbara County Oversight Board.
The council’s action could be appealed to the California Coastal Commission, staff said.