Source: Environmental Defense Center
The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission voted to reject ExxonMobil’s proposal to tanker oil along the dangerous California highway so it could restart three offshore oil rigs of Santa Barbara. The initial 3-2 vote came unexpectedly on September 29, during the first of two days of scheduled public hearings on the project, and is expected to be followed on November 3 by a formal vote and conclusions recommending to council supervisory authority to reject the project. .
ExxonMobil’s plan calls for up to 24,800 oil-filled truck trips per year on Coastal Highway 101 and dangerous Highway 166, 24 hours a day, to refineries for up to seven years or whenever a new Coastal pipeline is completed, whichever is shorter. ExxonMobil’s three offshore platforms near Santa Barbara were closed in 2015 after the Plains All American pipeline ruptured and thousands of gallons of oil spilled along the California coast.
“Our community has spoken out loud and clear against this project, and the commission did the right thing by recommending that ExxonMobil’s request to restart its offshore platforms and truck its oil be denied. dangerous and scenic county roads, ”said Linda Krop, chief advisor to the Environmental Defense Center, which represents Get Oil Out! and the Santa Barbara County Action Network. “The risk to our climate, the Santa Barbara Canal and the safety of our communities justifies denial. We look forward to working with the county as we move towards a clean energy future. ”
The final revised environmental impact report reviewed by the Panel concludes that there would be significant and unavoidable impacts from the Project, including significant impacts to wildlife and cultural resources in the event of an oil spill from a tanker truck. The document does not analyze the many negative impacts of bringing Exxon offshore platforms back online. The denial recommended by the Project Planning Commission will go to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for a final county decision.
“The Environmental Affairs Council is delighted that the Planning Commission has made the right decision to recommend that Exxon’s trucking proposal be rejected,” said the Environmental Affairs Council at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “Exxon’s proposal ignored the inevitable risks of spills, accidents, fires and habitat destruction. This would further delay our local transition to a clean, secure and just future. Climate change is a looming crisis for our generation of students, and victories like this give us hope for the future. ”
California experiences hundreds of oil truck incidents a year, and many result in oil spills. There were 258 trucking crashes along the highway from 2015 to 2021, according to California Highway Patrol data, killing 10 and injuring 110. A tanker truck crashed into Route 166 in March 2020, spilling more than 4,500 gallons of oil into the Cuyama River above the Twitchell Reservoir.
“Hearing the Commissioners prioritize public safety and environmental protection over ExxonMobil’s unnecessary and dangerous oil trucking proposal was heartening,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, Senior Counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It really feels like Santa Barbara County is on the cusp of being a national leader in the clean energy transition.”
A majority of Santa Barbara County voters said they opposed proposals to restart ExxonMobil offshore drilling rigs in the Santa Barbara Canal, according to a November 2019 poll. out of 4 said they were concerned “about the safety of our local highways if up to 70 tankers were allowed on our roads each day”.
“Restarting these 40-year-old platforms, beyond their maximum lifespan of 35 years, with a history of corrosion and spills, puts our entire coastline at risk,” said Katie Davis, president of the Sierra Club Los Padres chapter, which also submitted a petition, signed by more than 2,000 people, opposing the project. “Offshore oil is so risky that even Republican states like Florida have fought offshore oil development. This is why 7,500 companies and 90 cities on the Pacific coast officially oppose offshore oil. ”
ExxonMobil’s oil trucking project is strongly opposed by a coalition of 35 community and conservation organizations, who recently sent the commission a letter urging them to reject the project. They cited the project’s threat of more oil spills at sea, fueling climate change and endangering motorists and communities with dangerous tanker crashes.
“Now is not the time to go back and go back to our old ways of relying on fossil fuels to meet our energy needs,” the letter concludes. “Santa Barbara County is moving towards a clean energy future by adopting renewable energy goals and joining the Central Coast Community Energy program. Allowing ExxonMobil to resume oil production off our coasts will lead to decades of fossil fuel production that we cannot afford. ”
ExxonMobil’s plans to restart its offshore platforms and onshore processing facility will also generate huge levels of greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to climate change, compromising national and national climate targets and targets set. by the County Energy and Climate Action Plan adopted in May 2015.
Coalition opposing ExxonMobil’s trucking plan includes Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, 350 Santa Barbara, Center for Biological Diversity, Climate First: Replace Oil and Gas (CFROG), Environmental Defense Center, Food and Water Action , GOO !, SBCAN, Sierra Club’s Los Padres Section, UCSB Associated Students External Vice President for State Affairs Esmeralda Quintero-Cubillan, UCSB Environmental Affairs Board (EAB), Surfrider Foundation Santa Barbara County Chapter, Los Padres ForestWatch, the Goleta Goodland Coalition, the Cuyama Valley Community Association and the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation.