Court Allows Environmentalists’ Request to Intervene in Exxon Trucking Case

By the Environmental Defense Center

A federal judge ruled [last week] that conservation and Indigenous groups can help legally defend Santa Barbara County’s denial of ExxonMobil’s proposal to truck vast quantities of oil along dangerous California roads.  

ExxonMobil is suing the County for rejecting the plan, which would have helped the company restart three Santa Barbara Channel oil platforms that have been shut down since the 2015 Refugio oil spill. 

The Environmental Defense Center, Get Oil Out!, Santa Barbara County Action Network, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Center for Biological Diversity, and Wishtoyo Foundation cited the trucking proposal’s risks to public safety and environmental and cultural resources in their bid to join Santa Barbara County in defending the denial of the trucking proposal.  

In March 2022 the Board of Supervisors rejected ExxonMobil’s proposal to truck more than 460,000 gallons of oil every day for up to seven years. In May 2022 ExxonMobil filed a lawsuit attacking the County’s denial in federal court in Los Angeles. Environmental groups sought to participate in the suit to help ensure that this dangerous project does not go forward, thereby preventing additional risks of more spilled oil, traffic accidents, and air pollution in our communities.  

Today, the court granted the groups’ request and recognized their significant interests in ensuring that the denial of ExxonMobil’s project is upheld. 

“Trucking is one of the most dangerous ways to transport oil. Recent oil tanker truck accidents prove how dangerous ExxonMobil’s proposal to restart its offshore oil platforms and truck crude oil along scenic and perilous county highways is. Our research revealed that there have been eight serious accidents involving tanker trucks along ExxonMobil’s proposed route since 2007, resulting in deaths, oil spills, injuries, fires, and road closures,” said Linda Krop, Chief Counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, which represents the organization’s members, Get Oil Out!, Santa Barbara County Action Network, Sierra Club, and Surfrider Foundation. “We are committed to ensuring that ExxonMobil’s project does not go forward — in order to protect our health and safety of our communities, our climate, and our coastline.” 

“I’m outraged that Exxon has the nerve to sue Santa Barbara County for trying to protect people from oil trucks,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The oil that contaminated California’s beaches in 2015 came from this company’s offshore platforms, which operate in public waters. Our coast has already suffered so much from offshore drilling, and this dirty industry doesn’t have the right to ramp up the risk by trucking huge quantities of oil down some of our most dangerous highways.” 

ExxonMobil’s plan would have added up to 24,800 oil-filled truck trips a year on coastal Highway 101 and hazardous Route 166. ExxonMobil’s three platforms off the coast of Santa Barbara were shut down in 2015 after the Plains All American Pipeline ruptured and spilled more than 450,000 gallons of heavy crude oil onto our beaches and into the Santa Barbara Channel, spreading all the way to Orange County. In 2020, Santa Barbara County planning staff recommended a prohibition on oil tanker trucks on Route 166 after a major accident spilled more than 4,500 gallons into the Cuyama River. 

“Exxon’s risky proposal to truck 460,000 gallons of oil per day along our coastline and a dangerous mountain highway is not just an accident waiting to happen but an accident that will happen.  This is exactly why Get Oil Out! continues to oppose foolhardy projects like this one,” stated Michael Lyons, President of Get Oil Out!.  “As such, we are pleased that GOO! and its environmental partners are now intervenors in this important case,” he added.  

“The 2020 oil tanker spill on Route 166 threatened to pollute Twitchell Reservoir, which is the lifeblood of Santa Maria Valley’s agricultural economy and the source of drinking water for 200,000 residents,” said Ken Hough of the Santa Barbara County Action Network . 

The County’s rejection earlier this year of ExxonMobil’s proposal was based on the project’s significant and unavoidable harms to biological, water, and cultural resources in the event of a spill, as well as the project’s other threats to public health, safety, and general welfare.   

“Surfrider Foundation Santa Barbara Chapter has been working tirelessly for decades to protect the Gaviota Coast from inappropriate development and destruction at the hands of the oil industry. The history of oil industry damage in Santa Barbara goes all the way back to the infamous oil spill of 1969, which some people think of as a seminal moment in the development of the environmental movement,” stated Ken Palley, Executive Committee Member of the Surfrider Santa Barbara Chapter. “We are delighted by this ruling as it is a step toward protection of our beautiful and irreplaceable coast from further catastrophic oil spills.” 

“ExxonMobil cannot be allowed to bully local governments and poison communities,” said Katie Davis, Chair of Sierra Club’s Santa Barbara-Ventura Chapter. “The County followed the law in determining the risks of this project—which would restart aging offshore oil platforms, pump out carcinogenic air pollution from their coastal processing plant and send explosive oil trucks along dangerous roads—outweighed any possible benefits, even before considering the urgent need to get off of fossil fuels that are causing the climate crisis.” 

Watch the video produced by @vacationland for @environmentaldefensecenter. Directed by and @nicholas_weissman. 

The Environmental Defense Center, a non-profit law firm, protects and enhances the local environment through education, advocacy, and legal action and works primarily within Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties. Since 1977, EDC has empowered community based organizations to advance environmental protection. EDC’s focus areas include protection of the Santa Barbara Channel, ensuring clean water, preserving open space and wildlife, and addressing climate and energy. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. 


Written by EDC

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  1. This is crazy! It really amounts to a war against the middle class. We need refineries, pipelines, and new oil and gas wells. Our SPR is nearly exhausted, and after the midterms our energy prices are going up, up, up. If we’re going to get serious about fighting inflation and standing up to countries like Russia and China, then we need to get serious about energy independence.

    • It’s not bs to those who cannot afford their gas and electric bills. It’s not bs for those who can’t afford thanksgiving this year. It’s not bs for those who will be forced to choose between heating their homes and buying food. It’s easy for the rich to live in a bubble, exploiting the labor and mineral wealth of the pseudo colonies overseas to live in luxury and rely on so called green energy that is neither practical nor economically viable. For most Americans, oil and gas is essential in order to maintain a reasonable standard of living. I expect the election tomorrow will deliver a forceful referendum on these misguided policies that are crushing all but the wealthiest in our country.

    • Seriously, CHIP, if you were honestly so concerned about peoples’ gas bills, you’d be out there protesting the oil execs disgusting salaries. They can make oil and gas more affordable, they just don’t want to. LOL, watching die hard Republicans all of a sudden care about the environment and the poor is almost as funny as it is disingenuous.

    • Chip, yes all of us know the oil and gas companies have always looked out for the little guy hahah. The industry is a racket and always has been. From the OPEC cartel to the false promises of jobs and swindling of taxpayers to the tune of 10’s of billions of dollars. Not to mention internal documents from major oil companies reveal they knew about climate change decades ago but failed to disclose or do anything about it. My family’s farm in the Midwest was stolen out from under them by an oil company for pennies on the dollar. Preying on people when they’re vulnerable is their specialty. Every oil company executive is or will be burning in the lowest circle of hell.

    • I think a majority of people in this area fit into that wealthy bubble I described. Most around here are very fortunate and can afford to maintain unrealistic beliefs such as thinking we can shut down the oil industry without reverting to a 19th century lifestyle. However, most Americans have had enough. Most Americans want $2 gas back like it was a couple years ago. Most Americans want their grocery bills back to where they were a couple years ago. Most Americans recognize that shutting down the oil industry is a terrible idea that causes prices to skyrocket across the entire economy. Most importantly, most Americans are going to vote accordingly if they haven’t already. Prepare for the news tomorrow.

    • I don’t know that I’d call half the country, or perhaps I should say a majority of the country based on how things are looking for tomorrow, insurrectionists. That kind of rhetoric is a major factor in why the election is turning out the way it is. Inflation is a super simple problem to solve and there are two primary factors causing it. In the long term, it’s a result of the government spending way more money than it collects in taxes every year. This causes the dollar to lose value, which is an “inflation tax” that hits the poor and the middle class the hardest. Both parties share responsibility for this, and it has been decades in the making. The more immediate cause of inflation is the dramatic change in energy policy after the 2020 election. No new federal leases, no new refineries, no new pipelines. The policy is very clear and simple, shut down oil and gas. The result is a dramatic increase in then cost of oil and gas. Pretty much every product and service we consume includes energy costs from agricultural products to a ride in an Uber. As a result, everything is skyrocketing in price. If the administration reverted our energy policy to what was in 2020, new drilling would resume, new refineries and pipelines like the keystone xl could be constructed, we could ship massive amounts of lng to Europe to support our allies standing up against Putin. Perhaps most importantly for the average voter, a gallon of gas could cost $2 again unless you live in california.

    • Good point voice! And sac, you could say the same for any oil operation. How does closing one well, one pipeline, one refinery, or one trucking route make any difference? One wouldn’t make that much difference, but this is but one example of countless oil and gas projects being brought to a halt. It all adds up to higher prices at home and weakness relative to our adversaries abroad.

    • CHIP – it’s just puzzling to me. You’re such a vehement environmentalist and so concerned about people living in poverty when it comes to wind and solar, yet when it comes to oil, you could care less. Why?
      You are A-ok with people living and children playing/going to school within feet of toxic oil and gas wells. You have no problem allowing toxic substances to be carried by truck, putting the surrounding communities and ecosystems at high risk of disaster. You actually said oil and gas are better for the environment than wind and solar.
      How do you reconcile these glaring hypocritical stances?

    • SAC – Nothing is going to happen by Thanksgiving, especially when there is a person in charge that doesn’t have a clue about how to deal with this or any other issue. We either increase production and move our oil, or, like Biden, go “hat in hand” asking the Saudi’s, Iranian’s, and other countries to help only to have them laugh and say no. I think we’re are at a point right now when we have to set aside the plants, trees and little fish until we get our country back on track. I’m more disgusted about the Biden family’s “salary” selling out America than I am about any oil company exec. And the Biden’s don’t even work.

    • DOULIE – And that’s where our two sides fundamentally disagree. As for setting aside “the plants, trees and little fish,” are you really ok with destroying our local environment just so we don’t have to import oil? Do you feel the same about solar and wind? I ask because CHIP is an avid wildlife protector and environmentalist when it comes to “liberal” forms of energy, but not so much for oil.

    • 2:32 –
      The fact that you merely ask that question shows that you don’t understand even the fundamentals behind AGW. Burning natural gas (methane) produces carbon dioxide. Gas lines leak. CO2 and methane are the primary greenhouse gas emissions causing the rapid rise in the rate of deposition of energy in our atmosphere due to radiative forcing. Please get a clue.

    • SAC – I’m not OK with damaging/destroying the environment but we have to get (our) oil moving. Whether the oil is ours or imported, both have to be moved/transported, correct? The risk of problems creating damage will always be present transporting either. We’re caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to doing this safely. I’m not much worried about solar/wind turbines. I don’t like the volume of either in an area but they are mostly in isolated locations. Energy Monitor (9-28-22) cites a study published in Nature. In the US there are (fewer) birds killed each year by the turbines than by comm towers, cars, pesticides and cats. It will be some time before solar/wind can replace oil. I don’t see this happening in my lifetime.

    • Totally missed the point of the comment 7:44, but I can see from your comment you’ve gone beyond environmental stewardship and are iflying around in the climate apocalypse world powered by alarmist propaganda. Switching from coal to nat gas power generation has been the #1 CO2 reducing measure by a very large margin. When you flip the switch on your mandated electric stove, a portion of that is still coming from coal, most of it from nat gas generators (at least in CA), and even the solar and wind portions are not nearly as environmentally friendly than they claim (when looking at the full product life cycle and land area requirements, though still significantly better than coal).

    • The math just doesn’t support your rant. 460,000 gallons a day is 0.1% of US production. So you want to risk a horrible firey accident on US-101, or the contamination of our scarce water sources, to potentially save half a cent per gallon? Or, more likely, give Exxon’s CEO a 0.1% salary bump?

  2. I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble but my husband worked in the waste management here for years.
    This whole recycle thing costs a TON of money to ship the stuff around and an incredible amount of fossil fuel to be remade into something else. I wish local markets would use more Chines take out type containers over the hard plastic trays for a few spears of asparagus.
    Having said that, I am also pro-oil because we have a LOT of it here and we ALL use it! Let’s not be hypocrites.

  3. If you do not allow some production after all the billions of dollars that these companies spent I can almost guarantee they will bring back the z Santa Ynez and produce their oil offshore just years ago. Then you will have very little say in any of that.
    I look forward to cleaner energy sources but we as a community are not there yet.

  4. I walk everywhere. Pick trash up on the beach. Ride my bike. I shop at a local grocery store so I can walk there. I not only recycle into The Blue Can (Only a 5% recovery rate the rest is a myth sorry). I recycle boxes and plastics and all kinds of items in ways that can be reused. But somehow I’m for big oil. Some how I realize for any change it starts with REDUCTION and not these entirely misleading promotions of changing to Wind and Solar and Electric. All of you can find ways to reduce. You don’t. You’re surrounded by plastics and drive your cars endlessly for mundane reasons. Apparently you’re environmental desires vanish between hear and your NPR episodes. You go to the beach and can stare at Platform Holly and see, with your own eyes, what happens when you just say bye bye bye to Big Oil as we are left with the ruins. Someone can tell you how incredibly safe transporting oil is via pipeline and you’ll deny it. You can learn all the gas at gas stations is currently TRUCKED into the county but you pretend otherwise. You can learn that 500k tons of earth needs to be moved to create one car battery but you just shake your head. Yes. It’s obvious we should all have solar panels on our roofs collecting free energy. But that we should also not have to “upload” residual to SCE and not be “allowed” off grid. You should be able to collect and reprocess rain water if you wanted. But nah. You all use oil and you are all being fooled by some paradigm shift that has ZERO to do with C02 and everything to do with funding a debt system that is in dire need of inputs but you’re clueless to it. Remember when TVs were “abandoned” because the industry “upgraded” to digital? All of it was a money grab for industry. But go ahead. Pretend a 500,000 pound swirling blade didn’t take a ton of energy to produce and has no guarantees on longevity. And have fun collecting all the dead bird carcases beneath as you “find ways” to go green.

    • “Just because it is possible to recycle something doesn’t make it feasible.” – Tell me you didn’t read my cited sources without telling me you didn’t read my cited sources.
      Yes, I am aware there is some byproducts involved and I’ve acknowledged over and over and over and over and over again that wind is not yet 100% perfectly green. Now, your turn….. answer the question (since you love speaking for others) I asked Haskels: What is better in your mind? Less pollution and death or the same amount of pollution and death? Why keep killing animals and destroying our environment, when we can start shifting now, even if some (but not as many) wildlife deaths will occur?

    • “They are not aluminum cans, which currently are the only feasibly recyclable material.” – LOL! Ok, so, with a straight face, you’re sitting there comparing million dollar wind turbines to soda cans? Is that your metric for “green?” Multi-material, million dollar wind turbines must be as easy to recycle as SODA CANS before you will be OK with decreasing the death and destruction caused by oil and gas and starting the shift to clean energy. Really? Wow…. good thing you’re in the minority. The anti-progress mentality is outdated and inconsistent with improving the quality of life on our planet. Enjoying watching you guys in the rear view mirror.

    • “It’s like you’re intentionally missing the point of Haskels and my comments just to argue.” – that’s the most deflective and dishonest thing I’ve seen in a while. You and Haskels are complaining about how “dirty” and “deadly” wind turbines are and I provided a counter. You’ve failed to answer my question and instead deflected and insulted. You must be proud.

    • “But yet again, you choose argue rather than acknowledge the facts presented.” – Pot meet kettle. Are you for real? Yes, if I choose to dispute your “facts,” I’m “arguing” rather than accepting your point of view. That is exactly how this works.
      Further, what “facts” have been presented other than my links showing recycling IS going to be viable for these wind turbines? You’re being absolutely ridiculous – saying I’m “missing” the point after I directly addressed the point and now you come back and say I’m “arguing?” YOU are the one who have completely abandoned any semblance of debate and are gaslighting and deflecting. YOU HAVE YET to address the facts I provide in rebuttal to your claims. YOU LOSE. Thank god you’re not anyone’s attorney. Give up at the scent of failure and resort to deflection, gaslighting and insults.

    • Saying we want to get away from coal/oil isn’t saying a “hard switch” as you keep crying about. No one is saying shut down all the pumps now, wind and solar only. It will be gradual, but you and your ilk don’t want to even try progressing.
      You’re grasping and reaching for anything and you keep missing.

    • Spot on Haskle, spot on. Wind and solar are more feel good measures and not so strong on the do good measures when factoring in the total products lifecycle. Reducing consumption is the key and a big part of that is sourcing what we do use as locally as possible and avoid goods shipped halfway around the world to get to us – be it an Amazon product from China or oil from the Middle East.

    • “Pretend a 500,000 pound swirling blade didn’t take a ton of energy to produce and has no guarantees on longevity.” – These turbines last over 20 years and we have the tech currently to recycle the blades. Sure, your YouTube and Fox news videos will show you otherwise, but consider the source of your info. In 20 years, when current wind farms will need upgrading, the tech will be in place to recycle all components on a mass scale, making them far more sustainable and safe for the environment than oil and gas production.
      “And have fun collecting all the dead bird carcases beneath as you “find ways” to go green.” – True, some wildlife is killed by wind and solar, but is that a reason to continue killing FAR MORE animals, birds, plants by sticking with oil and gas? You seem to demand perfection before shifting to sustainable and clean forms of energy.
      What is better in your mind? Less pollution and death or the same amount of pollution and death? Why keep killing animals and destroying our environment, when we can start shifting now, even if some (but not as many) wildlife deaths will occur?

    • HASKELS (and anyone else who cares to educate themselves on this) – here’s some info from actual scientists and the people who develop these wind farms, not Tucker Carlson:
      “In Port-La-Nouvelle (Aude), ENGIE decommissioned the first wind farm to be connected to France’s national grid, recycling over 96% of its components.” —
      “Several companies in the renewable energy industry—including Siemens Gamesa, General Electric and Vestas—are working on this issue” —
      “This is an extraordinary leap for upcycling materials from wind turbines and closing the loop on a circular renewable energy economy,” Li said. “This research will have an enormous global impact on the sustainability of wind energy.” —
      “98% of the composite material was either recycled or used for research or exhibition, including all the turbine blades.” —
      “The process will make wind turbines fully recyclable, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions from cement production by a net 27%, according to environmental impact analysis by Quantis U.S. The reprocessed blade has a net-positive environmental impact by replacing coal or other raw materials in the cement production process, according to GE.” —
      But sure, let’s keep killing animals and people and destroying our environment and filling the air with pollutants from oil and gas….. you know, because wind isn’t 100% perfect yet.

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