County Supervisors Split on Plains All-American Oil Pipeline

By the edhat staff

In a 2-2 vote, Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors could not agree on whether Plains All-American could add safety valves to its oil pipeline.

This Tuesday Supervisors held the crucial vote regarding the a pipeline project that has been a subject of concern and controversy, with intense debate regarding its potential impact on the environment and local communities. 

Plains All-American, an energy infrastructure company, appealed the Planning Commission’s denial of a permit to install safety valves in a pipeline that ruptured in 2015 spilling 142,800 gallons of crude oil onto Refugio Beach and the Pacific Ocean.

The decision currently allows the Planning Commission’s decision to remain, but could also allow for the pipeline to reopen in the future without additional safety valves.

Supervisors Das Williams and Laura Capps opposed the appeal while Bob Nelson and Steve Lavagnino supported the measure. Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann recused herself from the vote due to the pipeline running near a corner of her Santa Ynez Valley property.

Over 75% of the 36 public speakers voiced their opposition to the project. 

Plains All-American reached a deal to sell to Exxon-Mobil and were granted approval by the county zoning administrator to install the new safety valves; five new check valves and 11 new motor-operated valves.

The Gaviota Coast Conservancy led the charge to appeal that decision stating there’s no point in installing safety valves unless the oil companies plan to use the corroded and dangerous pipes again. The Planning Commission agreed with the appeal on a 3-2 vote, prompting the oil companies to appealed that decision to Supervisors.

In defense of their appeal, the oil companies brought up Supervisor Williams’ authored Assembly Bill 864 that requires operators of an existing pipeline near environmentally and ecologically sensitive areas to submit plans to retrofit the pipeline using the best available technology to reduce any spills.

Plains All-American stated safety valves are considered “best available technology,” and since they’re being denied in its use, it is now possible for the company to create an alternative plan that doesn’t use safety valves and submit it to the state, circumventing the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors altogether. 

The Supervisors debated the importance of climate change. Both Capps and Williams expressed the need for local communities to move towards renewable energy, such as electric vehicles, and move away from fossil fuel dependence.

Lavagnino expressed concern about the potential of getting into a legal battle with Exxon-Mobil and Nelson defended the oil company’s “vested rights.”

With the board’s tied vote it means there could be another appeal issued by the pipeline’s owners.

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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  1. While I do not agree that oil and coal are cleaner than wind and solar, the equipment, parts etc of solar, wind that are made in China, are made with electricity generated by coal. That is a good example of situational irony via expectations contrasted vs. what’s really happening.
    On rare earth minerals, I will quote from the Harvard International review. First this: “Overall, for every ton of rare earth, 2,000 tons of toxic waste are produced.” Then second quote to provide for larger context
    “For every ton of rare earth produced, the mining process yields 13kg of dust, 9,600-12,000 cubic meters of waste gas, 75 cubic meters of wastewater, and one ton of radioactive residue. This stems from the fact that rare earth element ores have metals that, when mixed with leaching pond chemicals, contaminate air, water, and soil. Most worrying is that rare earth ores are often laced with radioactive thorium and uranium, which result in especially detrimental health effects. Overall, for every ton of rare earth, 2,000 tons of toxic waste are produced.”
    From (scientific papers archive site) a snippet of a Finnish study found something we all already know intuitively, but here it is “mining and processing are one of the global top GHG emitting industries.” and then notes “The detailed calculation shows that an increase by 1% of green energy production represents roughly a 0.90% increase of GHG emissions in exploitation phase including mining, processing, and production stages.”
    Both papers note the situational irony and conclude that pushing through this phase is essential to fighting climate change. The Finnish study is an emotion free look at it.

    • “While I do not agree that oil and coal are cleaner than wind and solar, the equipment, parts etc of solar, wind that are made in China, are made with electricity generated by coal. That is a good example of situational irony via expectations contrasted vs. what’s really happening.”
      No, it’s a good example of irrational and grossly dishonest argumentation. It’s like arguing that it’s a bad idea to buy an EV because you have to drive your gas guzzler to the car dealership.

  2. Chip is right in the sense that American and European Union oil, gas, mining extraction and processing standards are much much higher than the rest of the world. All other things being equal, the world is less polluted by extracting a ton of XYZ in the USA or EU than it is by extracting the same ton in Africa or China

  3. I’m all about the environment, especially anything harming the ocean. The rush to change without actually knowing the consequences is harmful. We are a bunch of NINBY’s and if it’s not happening here, we’re cool. Like it never even happened…That’s why we buy all our cheap ass shit from Amazon! Brah I saved 10 bucks! On the back of pollution and slaves!
    Let’s ban those straws!
    The Amazon is precious. YES, whatever world power you respond to needs to be ahead of this. It’s already, for years, being burnt down for profit. WTF are you thinking? Let’s ruin what we can’t see, buy from our enemies, and support slavery so that we can bicker about how we’re supposed to follow a law(or whatever it is) on how to treat a defunct pipeline. Crazy town.

    • Mar- Thanks for the troll. Strip mining the rainforest for “renewable” applies to people who are literate I guess. Don’t know how they plan to “renew” the rainforest afterward.
      A company trying to comply with a law and being denied by the law’s author is lame. Especially if they can just get around it and proceed without the safety measures. Just a bunch of nothingness.

    • OG – weird, I never said anything was chill or OK. I just said the lithium they’re mining isn’t “renewable” after you mistakenly (hopefully) implied that we were saying the rainforest is renewable. Takes a couple steps of logic and comprehension to get that, but there it is.
      Again, for those in the back of the class, lithium mining is not renewable or green. It’s not great at all. BUT…… it’s still not as bad as oil prospecting (drilling), coal mining and production. Super simple concept: renewable energy (wind/solar…. again, not lithium batteries which is what the Amazon mining is about) is CLEANER, even in development and production and use than coal and oil.
      I really don’t know how much more simple I can make this for you guys.

    • Sac- It’s not renewable but a significant factor in the renewable crusade. I definitely support less pollution not switching one for another for the sake of politics. Proceed when you know everything about a process. All those solar panels are made in China with zero environmental restrictions. The blades are not made here either. Why is that? Year who cares NIMBY. BTW pretty simple if you don’t have an agenda.

    • OG – only significant for now. Sodium batteries are in the works and will be coming online within the next 2 years making lithium and all the non-green aspects of it obsolete. The tech is advancing rapidly. We’re on our way to clean energy as long as we’re not constantly set back by politicians who listen to people like VOT, CHIP, et al.

    • You make an excellent point about rushing to make sweeping changes without fully evaluating the consequences. Here is another example of how environmental policies can cause more harm than good. The ban on plastic straws seemed like an effective way to reduce plastic pollution. Unfortunately, it turns out most of the paper and bamboo straws that have replaced plastic straws are coated with toxic materials, namely poly and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which are commonly known as forever chemicals. It’s a shame this was overlooked when plastic straws were outlawed, and now the solution to one environmental problem will become a new and even greater environmental problem. We need to be careful we don’t make the same type of mistake in the rush to replace coal, oil, and gas with alternative energy sources, especially when the alternatives involve all manner of toxic materials without long term plans for sequestration or disposal.

    • OGSB–
      It’s a bit weird to me that you and Chip want to keep going back to the mining in the DRC as if that somehow discounts the benefits of the technologies.
      You cite a human cost and I have say two things:
      1. You are right. The human and environmental cost of mining in DRC (and other places) is horrendous.
      2. You are wrong that the DRC is a special case and that the mining of Cobalt there is something unique to the area.
      You don’t seem to understand that Cobalt is not even a rare earth. In fact, it is 32nd globally in terms of scarcity. Metals that you use and enjoy every single day are far less abundant–including Gold, Platinum, Palladium, Silver, etc. These are all more rare than Cobalt and have easily caused far greater environmental damage and human misery to support your enjoyment of totally unnecessary jewelry, and then of course the very computer that you are using contains gold, palladium, nickel, tantalum.
      Beyond that, Cobalt can be found in many places around the world, it doesn’t need to be mined in DRC at all. It is mined there because corporations are greedy AF and it is CHEAPEST to mine it there.
      So the problem is not so specific to the metal itself but more to the culture of corporate greed.
      Lastly, as I mentioned, there are new battery technologies coming that employ some of the most abundant materials on earth.
      That doesn’t mean there is zero impact, there can never be zero impact, but it is in all of our benefits to strive to REDUCE impacts of energy production as much as we can.

    • OGSB, am I correct the you are then not in opposition to the development of newer power storage technologies and use of electricity for propulsion?
      And that you are more concerned about broad impacts which we create through our lifestyles–which of course are far more sustained by petroleum products than any “renewables?
      As well, understanding that Lithium is not in fact a rare earth but it DOES present problems related to its extraction. And, also understanding that lithium is really a transition resource, which, by the way, there are abundant amounts of in the planet. And again, the environmental and human cost of extraction is important and we need to consider it.
      I appreciate your thoughts.

    • Alex 11:19- Yes that is all correct. My frustration is how it’s being pushed and the lack of concern about the damage by most people.
      Stupid stuff like the article I read today about CA wanting to sink $300 million into H2 fueling stations for the 12,000 H2 cars in CA. (pretty much the only state with H2 cars)
      While at the same time pushing our electric cars that our grid can’t support. Is also gets me.

    • OGSB – lack of concern about damage? Not sure that’s true. Everyone has heard all about bird strikes in wind farms as well as lithium mining being environmentally damaging. The thing is, the benefit outweighs the temporary (and lessening) damaging aspects of renewable development (mining for batteries) and production (wildlife death). We currently have NO risk free energy sources. We have some that are EXTREMEMLY devastating to the planet and have been destroying our home and air for decades and then some that are damaging, but not close to as bad as the others. Which would you choose?
      Also, and yeah I know it’s kind of a whatabout, but really….. people are still pushing coal and oil to this day with total “lack of concern about the damage.” Seems sustainability and the health of our planet and population takes a back seat to money and convenience. Always has, but hopeful it won’t always be. I’m excited and proud of the next generations of world leaders. The young people seem far more globally conscious, empathetic to others, more educated and less conservative than past generations. Changing our dirty habits and embracing differences is how we succeed as a civilization.

  4. “And yet the green technologies are still cleaner”
    Right. That is what both studies concluded.
    My point in quoting those scientific studies was exactly that, but it was also to point out that in this point of the adoption curve, the current benefit is fractional.
    “The detailed calculation shows that an increase by 1% of green energy production represents roughly a 0.90% increase of GHG emissions in exploitation phase including mining, processing, and production stages.”
    Why is it so hard to admit that at this point the benefit is 0.10%? Both studies concluded that the 0.10% benefit was worth it because of what it would lead to in the future. and I didn’t disagree.
    Why can’t people handle facts? Nothing worthwhile is ever 100% rainbows and unicorns. I gave you studies that say right now at this point in the curve its only 10% unicorns and rainbows and you act like its apostasy. Religion or Reason? I will say this. With China and India increasing emissions until at least 2035(no one sane thinks they will meet this goal) plus emerging economies doing the same, possibly well beyond 2035, 10% isn’t going to get it done, so that curve needs to bend favorably sooner than later.
    Big questions: How much of a premium are you willing to pay for 98% recycled REE electronics? If so are you aware that most of the USA and EU cannot afford that premium today? How much of a premium are you willing to pay for Solar and wind equipment? For example, if China moves to clean production methods and gets more expensive, but high quality, cheaper products are made via the old high polluting methods in, lets say Vietnam, would you buy those? If you have put artificial market pressures on budget restricted persons ie: they have to convert to solar or wind or an EV, but they cannot afford the low impact vendors, you have to accept that in order to meet the mandate, they may have to choose the old high impact methods

  5. Of course this dance was more kabuki theater than policy fight. The issue is not the idea of check valves but the underlying question as to whether or not we should permit oil pumping, pipelines and processing facilities at all in Santa Barbara County. The amount of oil these lines could produce is minuscule; oil companies have made huge profits from these fields over the years and should just fold their tents and go away, respecting the need to protect the integrity of our precarious environment. Of course the appetite for profit is pretty hard to assuage and community good is not much of a force against greed.

    • CHIP – no. Why would we? Why would we continue destroying the planet more than we would with lithium just to wait for the perfect solution? You demand perfection from wind and solar, but are just fine continuing with far more destructive energy production.
      Why? Can you articulate why you think continuing to destroy our planet and kill our people with coal, oil, gas is better than using LESS HARMFUL forms of energy just because they’re not perfectly clean yet?
      Why keep doing something that is categorically worse for our planet because the alternative isn’t perfect? You’d rather have terminal cancer than a few polyps?

    • Sac, coal, oil and gas are much less environmentally destructive than rare earth mining. What you are concerned about is the climate theory aspect of these fuels, not their environmental impact. Unfortunately, we can’t really debate climate theory because it is a faith based belief. There is no way to scientifically evaluate climate theory to prove it correct or incorrect. However, it is very clear the environmental (not climate theory) impact of rare earth mining practices in third world countries is far more destructive than coal, oil, and gas production in the USA. I’m talking strictly about the process of extracting and processing, not climate theory (CO2).

    • Sac, strip mining in the Amazon rainforest is more destructive than drilling a well in Santa Barbara. However, I will concede that if you believe in climate theory it would be worth strip mining entire continents if it would save us from the fire and brimstone that will be brought upon us by carbon dioxide emissions. I understand where you’re coming from based on your faith.

    • “Sac, coal, oil and gas are much less environmentally destructive than rare earth mining.” – No. Yeah, we’re done. I’ve provided countless links and studies showing that is absolutely, completely, 100% WRONG. Not an iota of truth in that sentence.
      It’s truly amazing what some people believe.

    • That AGW is occurring is indisputable unless you turn a blind eye to things you don’t want to see. The climate doesn’t care what you believe, unfortunately.
      That CO2 emissions are the cause is also indisputable. CO2 has been known to be a greenhouse gas since the mid-1800s. What do greenhouse gases do? They absorb infrared heat, preventing it from escaping our atmosphere and radiating into space. The rate of atmospheric warming we are experiencing is caused by the increased concentration of CO2 that we have added to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.
      Only a few noisy cranks and idiots, and shills for the carbon industry, would say otherwise. They are the ones ignoring the data and going on mere belief, without supporting evidence.

    • Chip, a moratorium? On mining rare earth for batteries? In theory, why not? In reality, how do you enforce that? As long as there is a market for materials and technologies that are legally obtainable and satisfy a need, or even a perceived need, then those products will sell.
      Who enforces said moratorium? The UN? You want the blue helmets knocking on your door and taking away your new iPhone?
      I think you don’t.
      I think you know the truth of the matter but your political beliefs make it impossible for you to discuss the issue rationally.

    • 3:59, you have provided That a faith based case for AGW. Can you provide a way to scientifically prove or disprove the theory is correct? For example, can you use the theory to make a prediction and agree the theory is invalid if the prediction proves to be incorrect? Religions are undeniable truth, scientific theories can be proven or disproven through a repeatable methodology. If the AGW theory is not falsifiable, it’s not science.

    • Sac, as the article I linked explains, climate policy and environmental policy are two distinctly different things. In fact, they are directly in conflict with one another. The energy transition concept claims to address global warming. It’s interesting that saving the planet with “clean energy” requires so much environmental destruction. The oiled beach in the photo for this article is clean now. The rainforest, that will be another story as the mining free-for-all has begun…

    • Some idiots still think carbon dioxide is a pollutant that is causing global warming. They even claim it’s “science.” However, the theory that CO2 causes global warming cannot be proven to be correct or incorrect. If anyone can explain how the basis of all the global warming claims can be scientifically tested, I’m all ears. If it’s not falsifiable, it’s not science.

    • CHIP – 1) “you support big corporations like Exxon getting involved” – there it is, that Con logic where by saying one thing, I’ve somehow said something completely different and unrelated. 2) Yeah, it’s still less pollution and destruction than oil, coal and gas production. That’s the whole point. That is, unless you’re someone who believes coal and oil are cleaner than wind and solar.
      When it comes to the destruction of my planet and ecosystem, less is better. Always better. Why is that such a difficult concept?

    • 11:33 – wrong. Even the production of turbines and solar panels is cleaner than drilling for oil and mining coal. The environmental impact is also less than that of oil fields, well drilling, coal mining, etc. And that doesn’t even begin to include the environmental damage caused by the USE of these energy sources.
      You’re ignoring readily available facts.

    • Carbon fuels get minimal subsidies compared to wind, solar, and batteries. In addition to the grants and tax incentives, the government imposes mandates and penalties to try to force the adoption of wind, solar, and batteries. So called “green energy” and EVs would never have taken off without massive government intervention. How many people would invest in a solar system if power cost fraction of what we have to pay, there was no net metering to shift generation costs to other customers, and the government didn’t provide a juicy subsidy to offset the initial cost? By contrast, coal, oil, and gas provide an abundant source of energy that is economically viable without any government subsidy (think the industrial revolution). Without the government tipping the scales, our fuel and electric bills would be at least 1/2 to 1/3 what we pay now and “green energy” would be a niche industry for hobbyists and people living off the grid.

    • CHIP – your first sentence is absolutely 100% wrong. Not true at all. I’ve provided links before showing the stats that prove you wrong. I won’t read the rest of your comment.
      If you want people to read your comments, start off with something that isn’t a lie that is easily and quickly verified.

    • Also, if his point is that without subsidies renewable energy would cost us more right now….so what.
      It makes sense for government to subsidize emerging technologies with long term economic and environmental benefit.
      He just hates anything remotely affiliated with “environmental issues” or climate change or apparently more efficient generation and storage of electricity. It’s like some weird disorder. Maybe a local doctor can point him towards a diagnosis in DSM that fits.

    • Alex, without subsidies, mandates, and other regulations the so-called “renewable” energy you are talking about basically wouldn’t exist. Not only that, we would have fewer restrictions on carbon fuels resulting in lower costs and a higher quality of life for most people. I find it frustrating that I have to pay more for fuel, food, and pretty much every product I need to live because of this push to adopt so called “renewable” or “green” energy. It’s making the rich men richer, but it comes at tremendous environmental and social costs.

    • CHIP – stop using “” on renewable as if the sun and wind are finite like coal and oil. It’s ridiculous. Look, you’re uniformed on this stuff clearly and are for some reason digging your heels in again despite the facts. Are you seriously blaming gas and food prices on renewable energy? Man, just don’t worry about it. People with high IQs have this under control and pretty soon, we’ll have much cleaner energy and hopefully a better quality of life. You can thank them then, but for now, just stop.

    • @1:31, excepting fracking and coal, no the production of turbines and solar panels, including all elements and minerals that are needed to go into them, are not cleaner than non-fracking oil extraction in the US. Please read the following before dismissing everything that doesn’t follow your preferred “climate apocalypse propaganda” as “oil shill propaganda”: __ _____ (ps does Harvard qualify as a good enough source for you?).

    • It’s pointless to debate these ignorant dishonest fossil fuel industry shills (Chip is the worst but there are numerous others here–these are not good people). Remember, Chip denies that CO2 drives global warming and claims that climate science isn’t science, so why pay any attention to him at all? The physics of greenhouse gases was demonstrated by Fourier, Pouillet, Tyndal, Arrhenius, and others in the 19th century, is very well understood by climate scientists (and other science-literate people) today, and is overwhelmingly supported by consilient scientific evidence. The deniers are anti-intellectual anti-science know-nothings. There is no reason whatsoever to believe anything the deniers say, and the only reason they give for why their baseless opinions should be preferred over that of thousands of climate scientists is their false ad hominem claim that those scientists are on the take–there are a few, but they are paid by the fossil fuel industry.
      Yes, renewable energy research was subsidized to get it off the ground–and that’s a damn good thing … such subsidies are needed to make inroads in the face of entrenched technologies. But today renewable energy is now less expensive than fossil fuel energy and the gap continues grow. Claims that ” “green energy” would be a niche industry for hobbyists and people living off the grid”, are silly, childish, obviously false, and completely disqualifying in terms of credibility.

    • Chip, it’s a balance. We could have a world with zero restrictions on the petroleum extraction industry and that would make it even cheaper for you. We could send our military and take reserves by force and enslave the local population to drive down labor costs. Then your fuel would be even cheaper. Is that what you want?
      I don’t think so. Or, heck, maybe you’d be good with that to save some money, I don’t know.
      In terms of the real increase in costs for you to purchase gas because of subsidies supporting alternative energies, I haven’t seen that data. Have you? Can you provide links? Or are you making assumptions to justify your unhappiness about the cost of goods.

    • It is nuts how the oil lovers refuse to accept that monumental advances are being made every year in the renewable energy and storage fields. Blades are now almost 100% recyclable (and will be fully so soon). Turbines are fitted with multiple bird, bat and even insect deterrent tech. Batteries are moving to safer and more environmentally friendly options, such as sodium ion. The excuses are running out. Renewable energy production and use is proven to be less damaging even now than oil and coal production and use. The ill informed refuse to learn the facts and I just don’t know why. Why would you support such dirty and deadly energy over something cleaner? Why the hate for wind and solar power? Sadly, the answer is the GOP somehow politicized energy and now most loyal Cons view “renewable” or “green” or “sustainable” as evil as “diversity and inclusion.”
      Once one side stops demonizing progress, we might have a chance to catch up with the rest of the developed world. We’re not there yet. USA! USA! USA…. indeed

  6. The whole green energy rollout has been an absolute disaster. This is mainly due to the general public (that’s the general public across our country….not “mono” political areas such as SB and the like) simply do not trust the so-called green companies. What these companies are doing to ruin the environment to get the materials needed to produce green energy, products, and the like is devastating. Simply devastating our planet is not what we signed up for with these green initiatives. The lies that they propogate are only matched by the politicians, agencies, and public agents who are taking money in like there is no tomorrow. “All lies! All lies! Not True!”……yeah, yeah, yeah….spare me.

    • COAST at 2:31 – that’s literally what is happening now. No one is shutting down your filthy fuel. You all are just crying and screaming because we’re also putting money and research into renewable energy, which seems to be as offensive to you people as diversity and inclusion.

  7. If we were serious about actually reducing CO2 ASAP (vs. the power/money grab that it is) we be implementing a natural way to extract C02 on a massive scale – we’d go on a massive tree planting spree. One tree absorbs 48 pounds of C02 per year, once car emits 4.6 metric tons of CO2 per year = 211 trees are needed to offset the annual emission of single car. That would be very easy to do, and easily funded with a nominal tax on each new ICE vehicle, with the added benefit of helping to reverse some of the massive deforestation we’ve caused, as well as provide a supply of future building materials. But no, were not interested in cost effective solution (no $$ in that), we have an agenda to push (lots of $$$).

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