Oil trucks and the climate crisis at the Planning Commission

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ExxonMobil plans to restart three offshore oil rigs and the Las Flores Canyon oil processing plant, then transport the oil in tankers to replace the pipeline that burst near the beaches of Refugio and El Capitan. in May 2015. Here’s why you need to be careful and take action:

Seventy fully loaded tankers of 5,000 to 6,500 gallons of crude oil will travel daily on US 101 and State Route 166 from Las Flores Canyon on the Gaviota Coast to refineries in North County. That’s 70 round trips a day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for seven years. It’s a tanker truck driving past you on the highway every 10 minutes, all day, every day. Considering the narrow, winding road, dense fog, and high winds at the Gaviota Tunnel, the chances of an oil truck hitting you or pulling off the road are significant. According to the Environmental Defense Center, 79 tanker trucks have crashed in California over the past 21 years, killing 28 people and injuring 56 others. One mitigation proposed by planning staff was not to allow truck transport on rainy days. A recent accident in March 2020 on the SR 166 spilled oil into the Cuyama River near Santa Maria. It wasn’t raining. In 2017, a tanker dumped its load onto the US 101 near Carpinteria, dissolving the pavement and killing the driver. Are you still concerned?

In addition to deaths and damage to roads, the environmental impacts of oil spills are catastrophic. Oil spills into the ocean and rivers, killing marine and land animals, disrupting ecosystems and contaminating water supplies. These issues affect us all. It should concern you.

Let’s talk about the climate crisis: There is no longer any doubt that climate change is a real crisis, fueled by our continued use of fossil fuels. We are the main cause of sea level rise and heat waves, droughts, floods and record storms, to name just the most obvious effects of the crisis.

The amount of carbon that will be produced if the ExxonMobil project is approved is surprising. The planet has already warmed by more than one degree Celsius, which means that we are halfway between the beginning of the end of human habitation in coastal areas and the end of sustainable agriculture everywhere in the world. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calls our situation a code red, which requires immediate corrective action – no more oil! This should really be concerned, especially if you have children and grandchildren, or plan to do so at some point. It is their future that you hold in your hands, in front of your keyboard, in front of the ballot boxes.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the Planning Commission heard public testimony and voted to reject Exxon’s project. The final decision on this project will be taken by the Supervisory Board at a later date. Stay tuned, get ready to send your thoughts to them. Your contributions to the process are important.

The Planning Commission determined that there are “serious negative impacts which cannot be mitigated”. Our question to the committee is: why are you even discussing approving a project whose impacts cannot be mitigated? Additionally, it has been revealed that the restarted Las Flores processing plant will use fossil fuels to power the steam generator that prepares crude oil for tankers. This would certainly result in additional greenhouse gas emissions. Both of these issues require further clarification before the supervisory board can make a final decision.

It should be noted that all the commissioners (except one, for reasons of collecting oil tax revenues) mentioned the high potential for environmental disaster of the project and its serious contribution to the climate crisis. Well done!

Editor’s note: The first day of the hearing was September 29. The second day is October 1.


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