County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil title=
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil
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Source: Environmental Defense Center

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission has voted to deny ExxonMobil’s proposal to transport oil by tanker trucks along hazardous California highway so it can restart three drilling platforms off the Santa Barbara coast. The 3-2 initial vote came unexpectedly on Sept. 29, during the first of two days of scheduled public hearings on the project, and is expected to be followed Nov. 3 with a formal vote and findings recommending the Board of Supervisors deny the project.    

ExxonMobil’s plan calls for up to 24,800 oil-filled truck trips per year on coastal Highway 101 and hazardous Route 166, 24 hours a day, to refineries for up to seven years or whenever a new coastal oil pipeline is completed, whichever is shorter. ExxonMobil’s three offshore platforms near Santa Barbara were shut down in 2015 after the Plains All American Pipeline ruptured and spilled thousands of gallons of oil along the California coast. 

“Our community spoke loud and clear against this project, and the commission did the right thing in recommending denial of ExxonMobil’s application to restart its offshore platforms and truck its oil along dangerous and scenic county highways,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, which represents Get Oil Out! and Santa Barbara County Action Network. “The risk to our climate, the Santa Barbara Channel, and the safety of our communities justifies denial. We look forward to working with the county as we transition to a clean energy future.” 

The revised final supplemental environment impact report considered by the commission concludes there would be significant, unavoidable impacts from the project, including significant impacts on wildlife and cultural resources in the event of an oil spill from a tanker truck. The document fails to analyze the numerous harmful impacts of bringing Exxon’s offshore platforms back online. The Planning Commission’s recommended denial of the project will go to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for a final county decision.  

“The Environmental Affairs Board is thrilled the Planning Commission made the correct decision to recommend denial of Exxon’s trucking proposal,” said the Environmental Affairs Board at University of California at Santa Barbara. “Exxon’s proposal ignored the unavoidable risks of spills, crashes, fires, and the destruction of habitat. It would further delay our local transition to a clean, safe, 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 suffers hundreds of oil-truck incidents a year, and many result in oil spills. There were 258 trucking accidents along the route from 2015 to 2021, California Highway Patrol data show, resulting in 10 deaths and 110 injuries. A tanker truck crashed off Highway 166 in March 2020, spilling more than 4,500 gallons of oil into the Cuyama River above Twitchell Reservoir. 

“To hear the commissioners prioritize public safety and environmental protection over ExxonMobil’s unnecessary and dangerous oil trucking proposal was heartening,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It really feels like Santa Barbara County is poised to be a national leader in the clean energy transition.” 

A majority of Santa Barbara County voters have said they oppose proposals to restart ExxonMobil’s offshore drilling platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel, according to a November 2019 poll. Nearly 3 out of 4 respondents said they were concerned “about the safety of our local highways if up to 70 oil tanker trucks are allowed on our roads each day.” 

“Restarting these 40-year-old platforms, beyond their max 35-year life, with a history of corrosion and spills, puts our entire coastline at risk,” said Katie Davis, chair 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 even Republican states like Florida have fought off offshore oil development. It’s why 7,500 businesses and 90 cities on the Pacific coast are on record opposing offshore oil.” 

ExxonMobil’s oil-trucking scheme is strongly opposed by a coalition of 35 community and conservation organizations, who recently sent the commission a letter urging it to reject the project. They cited the project’s threat of more offshore oil spills, fueling climate change, and endangering motorists and communities with dangerous oil tanker truck crashes.    

“Now is not the time to turn the clock back and return to our old ways of relying on fossil fuels to meet our energy needs,” the letter concludes. “The County of Santa Barbara is moving towards a clean energy future by adopting renewable energy targets and joining the Central Coast Community Energy program. Allowing ExxonMobil to resume oil production off our coast 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 enormous levels of greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to climate change, undermining state and national climate targets and goals set by the county’s Energy and Climate Action Plan adopted in May 2015.  

The coalition opposing ExxonMobil’s trucking plan includes Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, 350 Santa Barbara, the Center for Biological Diversity, Climate First: Replacing Oil and Gas (CFROG), Environmental Defense Center, Food and Water Action, GOO!, SBCAN, Sierra Club’s Los Padres Chapter, UCSB Associated Students External Vice President for Statewide 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. 

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sacjon Oct 01, 2021 11:25 AM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

CHIP - sounds like you and all the others who are so pro-local oil and concerned about "living wages, or human rights" (as long as they're not American women or poor people), should work with the NPOs devoted to combatting such issues in developing countries. I'm sure they could use all the help they can get! Have you offered any time to helping out at Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch?

Chip of SB Oct 01, 2021 11:50 AM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

Sac, I do not believe NPOs are going to be able to make a dent in the environmental and human rights catastrophes that are taking place in other countries. For example, China is operating concentration camps right now. The minority groups who the CCP is trying to eradicate who are who are imprisoned in these camps are forced to work, and many of our consumer products are built with this forced labor. China even conducts medical experiments on some of the prisoners in its concentration camps. China is also very good at public relations, and most people are unaware of these atrocities. The only way to address this is through public policy. Any products manufactured by slaves or manufactured in concentration camps should be banned from importation into our country immediately. It is truly a disgrace that 21st century Americans continue to buy such products. In addition, we should enact tariffs on products that are not manufactured in a manner consistent with our standards for workplace safety, wages, and environmental impact. Such products should not be allowed to have a competitive pricing advantage over American manufacturers in exchange for poor labor and environmental practices.

sacjon Oct 01, 2021 11:53 AM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

CHIP - " I do not believe NPOs are going to be able to make a dent in the environmental and human rights catastrophes that are taking place in other countries." - so your not even going to try? Your so concerned about it, you should at least make an effort. Or, if it is truly futile, then why wag your finger at those who want to ditch local oil? Whether we produce locally and endanger our environment, these issues will still affect the foreign production. OR....... do you think we should ramp up US production to eliminate the demand on foreign oil? Some lofty goals there, Chip!

Voice of Reason Oct 01, 2021 05:21 PM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

Marcelo, where shall we procure the oil for the petroleum products you and I continue to use on a daily basis? This question doesn’t mean we should do nothing and not conserve or endeavor to change our ways; I have solar panels and a plug in hybrid and minimize single use plastics. But while we still consume petroleum products while banning its extraction in our area, where we have the most stringent environmental regulations in the world, you’re simply outsourcing the extraction to areas without those environmental protections, then using more fossil fuels to bring it to us. So Marcelk, where shall we extract the oil that you and I still use? (disclaimer, pipeline is way better than trucks and fracking sucks)

Voice of Reason Oct 01, 2021 06:58 PM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

I agree @525, but we are still burning oil and using plastics for the time being. It does seem logical onshore extraction would be preferable to offshore if there was a spill. Outsourcing extraction overseas doesn’t help as tankers ships would still need to bring us the oil, even if it is extracted onshore overseas. Which is more hazardous to the ocean, tankers bringing the oil to the US or our local oil platforms and their pipelines?

Chip of SB Oct 01, 2021 11:28 AM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

I think the county’s policy of effectively shutting down these oil platforms constitutes a taking. The county should be forced to compensate the oil lease holders for the loss. At the very least, the property tax basis for these leases should be re-assessed to zero since they are now a liability and have no value. Imagine if the county told you that your house was a blight on the landscape and that it should be dismantled. Imagine that your sewer line stopped working, and the county refused to grant you a permit to replace it. Imagine that you tried to come up with an alternative so you could continue to live in your house and the county blocked all your efforts, thereby forcing you out of your home. This is essentially what the county is doing to shut down these oil platforms.

sacjon Oct 01, 2021 11:39 AM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

CHIP - Are these the only 3 platforms they own? If not, no taking, just a minimal hit to their business. These platforms aren't even running. Restricting the transportation just means they probably won't use these. It's not like they had them running and were transporting the oil and the County came in and stopped it. They just made it harder for them to start them up again. Eminent domain isn't exercised every single time the government restricts a business' planned practice. If it were, we'd effectively have no laws or regulations.

Eggs Ackley Oct 01, 2021 12:43 PM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

Imagine your neighbor trucking his effluent past your house five times a day.
Imagine letting the extractors off the hook for cleaning up lands they have leased from the public.
Imagine clean air and water, reduced wildfire threat, a more benign climate.
Imagine that you’re smart enough to care about your environment.
Imagine you’re not a school for a company that pollutes and profits off public resources.

Ahchooo Oct 01, 2021 01:10 PM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

Oil extraction leases are not equivalent to ownership of a house on a plot of land. There are all kinds of restrictions and complexities with offshore oil extraction because the companies are taking the oil from under the sea, which isn’t owned the way residential property is owned. They don’t own the ocean floor. They have specific permissions to extract certain substances with certain methods. Disallowing trucking is not a “taking” of Exxon’s property. And if Exxon cared so much about getting the oil to a refinery, maybe they should have monitored the pipeline they relied on and seen that it was maintained.

Byzantium Oct 01, 2021 01:47 PM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

Why does the county allow all the cleaned out vagrants camps along 101 to be instantly repopulated with their pollution, debris and blatant safety hazards, yet turn their noses up at oil tankering? If the county is so dedicated to eliminate one claimed environmental and safety hazards, why can't they take care of both environmental and safety hazards at the same time. Where is their will to serve the entire community; not just listen to select voices. Just drove down 101 and the camps are back. And I suppose the Rose Garden Motel is now full? Just as expected - local powers that be create another vagrant magnet with no capacity to absorb the immediate over-fill. Why are we still doing this to ourselves, yet take no prisoners when it comes to oil tankering.

Ahchooo Oct 01, 2021 03:37 PM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

Regulations for oil transportation can’t be compared with regulations (and enforcement) affecting illegal camping, littering, mental health treatment, etc. Finding legal, humane solutions to the problems of vagrancy is a tricky business. If you’ve got such a solution, please tell the authorities. I don’t think anyone wants the camps, except maybe some of the campers.

Byzantium Oct 01, 2021 09:46 PM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

It is not tricky to clean out these camps permanently. Where is your will, instead of your excuses. No two systems of justice allowed. Just have the backs of a whole new slate of elected officials and new legal staff for both city and county. This is a self-serving racket going on right now. No, it is not tricky at all. Just keep the pressure on and everyone benefits.

ginger1 Oct 01, 2021 03:32 PM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

I'd like to clarify a few things.
1. The amount of oil extracted and processed from the three platforms would be about 2% of the entire production of oil from California and less than 0.1% of the US oil production. (SBCo. Planning Staff.) Literally a drop in the bucket.
2. Those wells were stopped following the rupture of the Plains All-America Pipeline in May 2015 and the resulting oil spill. The County did not shut them down, they had no choice. There's nothing to stop them from fixing the pipeline and then resuming production. Trucking the oil is their easy way out and only a stop-gap measure with HUGE safety concerns.
3. And then there is the cost relating to the Climate Crisis. Do we really need the few drops of oil from Exxon and the resulting air pollution, ocean pollution, and likely tanker truck accidents?

I'd suggest that anyone interested in being educated on this issue read the opinion piece in the Independent "Oil Trucks and Climate Crisis" (under the Opinions tab) and the excellent news report about the Planning Commission's action "County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil's Proposal". It's on the front page of the online edition at Independent.com

Stray Oct 02, 2021 08:26 AM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

Ginger's comment is worth reading twice, everyone. Plains All American Company did not maintain the oil pipeline from the rigs to the refinery. The pipeline ruptured by that company's negligence of their own infrastructure. PAAC doesn't have the money to repair/replace the line, so Exxon-Mobil is looking to the public sector for a transportation fix. 25,000 truck trips/year on our highways. Forgetaboutit. As another poster mentioned some months ago, this 25,000 truck trips per year may be just a bargaining chip Exxon-Mobil is trying to float to avoid their cost of decommissioning their oil rigs that they aren't operating anyway. Exxon Mobil may now be throwing up their trucking proposal as a negotiating tool. We'll remove the trucking proposal if you to allow us to walk away from the cost of decommissioning our rigs. But in a 3 strikes you're out game, the County Planning Commission just threw STRIKE ONE. Next up: California Coastal Commission ruling. Then: California Supreme Court.

ginger1 Oct 02, 2021 09:42 AM
County Planning Commission Rejects ExxonMobil’s Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil

Thanks, and more good points, STRAY. The gameplay, BTW, is next to finalize denial with statements of [undeniable] facts, Planning Commission Nov 3, the Board of Supervisors (date not set), the Coastal Commission, and then the legal sham, first California and then Federal.

It seems like a lot of work for ExxonMobil for a couple of hundred jobs and low (any?) net revenues, after the cost of re-starting three platforms, an oil processing plant and trucking. But they can afford it, I guess. They win either way and we lose, either way. The game is fixed.

On the plus side, I think it is wonderful that our community is interested in learning the truth behind the oil companies' arm twisting and scams. The Climate Crisis is real and they are bottom-line cause.

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