The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] – Volume 22, Number 32
Planning Commission denies ExxonMobil trucking license
By Taylor O’Connor
More than 30 community organizations, 58 speakers and thousands of letter writers have given their opinions on a plan to restart offshore oil rigs and truck oil across Santa Barbara County.
For organizations such as Los Padres ForestWatch, community involvement was a movement in the making for months before the September 29 hearing of the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission on ExxonMobil’s petroleum transportation project permit, ForestWatch director of conservation Bryant Baker said.
“This was probably the most important interaction the commission has received from the general public in a long time,” he said.
The project, which commissioners voted down by vote 3-2, called for transporting 11,200 barrels of oil per day from Exxon’s Santa Ynez unit along highways 101 and 166 to the Santa Maria pumping stations and Pentland. Exxon’s goal is to restart its offshore oil rigs, which have been closed since the Plains All American pipeline ruptured in 2015 along the Gaviota coast.
ForestWatch set up a web page where people could submit comments for the meeting and received over 900 emails, Baker said.
“We were working together to ensure that accurate and useful information was released to the public and that the public could submit comments to the Planning Commission,” Baker said.
Project documents addressed community concerns, including the risks of oil spills, road safety and greenhouse gas emissions. However, many residents of the area expressed persistent concerns about these issues and urged the Planning Commission not to approve the plan.
At the September 29 meeting, 3rd District Commissioner John Parke said he was concerned about potential spills and higher traffic rates for Cuyama residents.
“The people of Cuyama don’t have cities for them, they have us. When they express, almost unanimously, their concern during the meeting, I want to show them that I am concerned, ”he said.
While there has been a lot of verbal support against the proposal, a significant number of residents have always expressed interest in the oil trucking project, 4th District Commissioner Larry Ferini said.
“There are 1680 signatures [for approval], and I was really surprised. It seemed like there was a lot of support for the project, ”Ferini said.
After listening to over an hour of public commentary and ExxonMobil’s response, the Planning Commission denied the project permit.
ExxonMobil Operations Media Manager Julie King sent a statement to Sun on behalf of the oil company.
“We appreciate the in-depth assessment of the Santa Barbara County Planning Department staff and professional consultants prepared to recommend permit approval. We are disappointed that the Planning Commission did not adopt the staff recommendations, ”King said via email. “We also appreciate the continued support of many organizations and community members who recognize the many benefits that a safe resumption of operations at. [Santa Ynez Unit] would bring Santa Barbara County including local jobs and millions in vital tax revenue for county schools, public safety and health services.
The commission’s decision will go to the Santa Barbara County Supervisory Board for a final word on ExxonMobil’s proposal. No date is set for the meeting at press time.