County Planning Commission rejects ExxonMobil’s proposal to truck oil to the Santa Barbara coast


In the final chapter of one of Santa Barbara County’s most controversial issues – ExxonMobil’s offer to haul trucks of crude oil from its Las Flores Canyon processing plant to a pumping station in Santa Maria and a terminal in Kern County as part of plans to restart three oil rigs off the central coast – the county planning commission rejected the project in an initial 3: 2 vote.

Commissioners Laura Bridley, John Parke and Vice-President Michael Cooney voted to reject it, with Commissioner Daniel Blough and President Larry Ferini opposed, which unexpectedly happened on the first day of two hearings scheduled for the September 29 and October 1; the second hearing was canceled and the issue is expected to return to the commission in November for a formal vote recommending that the supervisory board reject the project as well.

A coalition of at least 35 groups joined the project, including the Environmental Defense Center, the Center for Biological Diversity, the UCSB Environmental Affairs Board, and the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation. The groups fear that Highway 166 is not ready to safely handle the 24,800 oil-filled truck trips per year that ExxonMobil offers to transport, and they oppose the reopening of three offshore platforms that have been dormant since the rupture and spill of Plains All American Pipeline 901. thousands of gallons of oil along the coast near Refugio State Beach in 2015.

The Planning Commission vote to deny the project comes after county energy planning staff recommended earlier this month that the commission approve it. County energy planners estimate it could be up to seven years before the corroded section of the pipeline can be replaced, and they and ExxonMobil concluded that trucking was the only viable option.

“Our community has spoken out loud and clear against this project, and the commission has done the right thing in 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 for the Environmental Defense Center. “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 on the transition to a clean energy future. “

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The latest Supplemental Environmental Impact Report revealed several important red flags that would impact wildlife and the environment in the event of an oil spill from one of the tankers.

According to the California Highway Patrol, there were 258 trucking accidents along the route from 2015 to 2021, killing 10 and injuring 110. In another incident in March 2020, another tanker crashed into Route 166, spilling more than 4,500 gallons of oil into the Cuyama River.

These incidents, and the potential impacts of the reopening of three offshore drilling platforms, have been at the center of the concerns of groups opposed to the project. In a poll in November 2019, the coalition said in a letter to the commission, nearly three-quarters of county residents feared the project would create problems on the highway.

Commissioner Parke underlined the importance of not only communicating the result of the vote to the Supervisory Board, but also the specific conclusions which led to the recommendation to reject.

“This is a communication from the Planning Commission to the Board of Directors,” Parke said. “I can’t go to the board and discuss what we’ve been up to. I want to make sure they get the message, and that’s why I want it in the conclusions.

At its November 3 meeting, the commission will consider new documents on the administrative and overarching concerns raised in the denial, and the case will be sent to supervisors with a recommendation to dismiss the project.

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