Santa Barbara Commission Vote Puts Exxon Oil Trucking Plan on Thin Ice

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Source: Environmental Defense Center

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission voted [Wednesday] to recommend denial of ExxonMobil’s proposal to transport oil by tanker trucks along hazardous California highways. The plan would help the company restart three drilling platforms off the Santa Barbara coast. 

Today’s 3-2 final vote finalizes the commission’s Sept. 29 conceptual decision to recommend denial. In the few weeks between the two votes, the state has seen the disastrous oil spill off Huntington Beach, an oil tanker truck accident and fire in Santa Maria, and the Alisal Fire that threatened the ExxonMobil’s Las Flores Canyon oil processing facility, where trucks would load crude.  

The commission’s denial recommendation will now go to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for a final decision. 

ExxonMobil’s plan calls for up to 24,800 oil-filled truck trips a year on coastal Highway 101 and hazardous Route 166, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, for up to seven years or whenever a new coastal oil pipeline is completed. 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. 

“Even before the Santa Maria tanker truck accident, the fire near ExxonMobil’s onshore facilities, and the horrific offshore oil spill in southern California, the majority of commissioners rightly decided to deny ExxonMobil’s proposal to restart its offshore oil platforms and truck crude oil along scenic and dangerous county highways,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, which represents Get Oil Out! and Santa Barbara County Action Network. “We applaud the commission’s vote against ExxonMobil’s project, which puts the safety of our communities, climate and coastlines first.” 

Today commissioners adopted revised findings recommending denial in light of the project’s significant and unavoidable impacts to biological, water and cultural resources in the event of a spill, as well as the proposed trucking’s other impacts on health, safety, comfort, convenience and general welfare. 

“The Environmental Affairs Board celebrates the planning commission’s recommendation to reject Exxon’s trucking proposal once and for all,” said the Environmental Affairs Board at University of California at Santa Barbara. “Exxon’s trucking proposal was a step in the wrong direction on climate and put Californians and our coastal resources in harm’s way from spills, crashes, pollution and fires. This vote gives our generation of students hope that the county is transitioning to a clean, safe and just future without delay.” 

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 shows, 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. On Oct. 11 an oil tanker crashed east of Santa Maria, causing a vegetation fire and small oil spill. 

“Kudos to the planning commission for putting public safety and environmental protection ahead of ExxonMobil’s dangerous oil trucking scheme,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The recent oil spill, oil truck accident and fires spotlight why Santa Barbara County can’t afford to greenlight risky and dirty projects like ExxonMobil’s.” 

A majority of Santa Barbara County voters oppose restarting 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.” 

“The Huntington spill sadly brought into clear, devastating focus why restarting Exxon’s 40-year-old platforms, beyond their max 35-year life, with a history of corrosion and spills, would place 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 too risky. We know it, and the industry and regulators know it. It’s why 7,500 businesses and 90 cities on the Pacific coast are on record opposing offshore oil.” 

“The planning commission has taken the right stance today and protected Chumash homelands and homewaters from this unthinkable project,” said Mariza Sullivan, tribal chair of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation. “The Chumash people will not condone this or other destructive fossil fuel projects passing through our ancestral lands.” 

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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fitz Nov 04, 2021 10:01 AM
Santa Barbara Commission Vote Puts Exxon Oil Trucking Plan on Thin Ice

Good move. It is sad to see the commissioners from 4th and 5th district just roll over to the oil industry. Sometimes I sense they don't even read the staff reports or listen to the public comment that is overwhelmingly against this trucking. The oil industry should have taken better carry of their infrastructure so they wouldn't be in this situation. These commissioners mouth the same old arguments year after year after year. Surely they must see how the fossil fuel industry has no concern about the health and safety of our children and grandchildren. Climate change has hit Santa Barbara County already: fires, debris flows, etc.

ginger1 Nov 04, 2021 10:44 AM
Santa Barbara Commission Vote Puts Exxon Oil Trucking Plan on Thin Ice

Shame on them! How incredibly arrogant and ignorant to note vote to stop oil tankers on our freeways, considering one such crash occurred in their neighborhood a few weeks ago. What are the chances out of 24,800 trips per year that it won't happen, again and again? Now we'll see if the county supervisors who appointed those two will vote the same way. That's Steve Lavagnino and Bob Nelson. We need to see a unanimous NO. We need elected (and their appointed) officials that work for us, not ExxonMobil. Remember that when you folks in North County go to the polls in June.

Harbor_Seal Nov 04, 2021 11:06 AM
Santa Barbara Commission Vote Puts Exxon Oil Trucking Plan on Thin Ice

The proposal of trucking oil, via tens of thousands of trips, along public roads is staggeringly ludicrous… so much so I am wondering if it wasn’t a strategy vs a serious proposal.

Does anyone know why they haven’t proposed using barges like Platform Holly did successfully for so many years?

a-1636060529 Nov 04, 2021 02:15 PM
Santa Barbara Commission Vote Puts Exxon Oil Trucking Plan on Thin Ice

Are referring to "barges" or tankers? As to tankers, the County Supervisors voted no to tankering in the SB Channel in January 1989. In March, one of those same single wall tankers, the Exxon Valdez ran aground on "Bligh Bight" in Prince William Sound, " spilling 11 million gallons of oil. The ecologically sensitive location, season of the year, and large scale of this spill resulted in one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history." An interesting side note: the Valdez was headed for Long Beach. The oil industry is either incompetent, stupid, heedless, too greedy to care or downright malicious in their operations.

PitMix Nov 04, 2021 03:39 PM
Santa Barbara Commission Vote Puts Exxon Oil Trucking Plan on Thin Ice

By preventing the truck transport, they just ensured our highways would not deteriorate so rapidly and cost us so much to maintain. Highway damage goes up dramatically as weight increases, which is why the lanes the trucks use more often are in worse shape than the car only lanes.

Byzantium Nov 04, 2021 05:17 PM
Santa Barbara Commission Vote Puts Exxon Oil Trucking Plan on Thin Ice

Thank you north county supervisors making the right choice. Re-districting may finally put the north county supervisors vote 3-2. Instead of always being at the mercy of south county libs, while you end up paying the price for their relentlessly tone-deaf ideological posturing.

Voice of Reason Nov 05, 2021 08:29 AM
Santa Barbara Commission Vote Puts Exxon Oil Trucking Plan on Thin Ice

I understand banning off-shore oil production due to the difficulty containing releases and how far it can spread. While we are still consuming large quantities in our county, where should we extract that oil from? If your concerns are environmental, it makes no sense to push its extraction to areas with fewer environmental controls (including offshore), little regard for the local population, then burn more fossil fuels shipping it around the world to us. Extracting it locally has the smallest carbon footprint, the strictest env. controls in the world (which can be made stricter if our elected officials wanted to), and keeps the tax revenue local while providing local jobs. How is this not environmental NIMBYism? While we are still using fossil fuels, whose backyard shall we extract them from? The consensus here doesn't seem to care as long as it isn't here.

Harbor_Seal Nov 05, 2021 10:27 PM
Santa Barbara Commission Vote Puts Exxon Oil Trucking Plan on Thin Ice

SacJon: Chicken or the Egg?

No point in extracting if it can’t be transported for processing.

It’s embarrassing locals think it’s better to get oil shipped from Saudi Arabia every day so we can drive our cars vs extracting it locally. Platform Holly sits on one of the largest oil reserves in California… this is not an engineering issue it’s a NIMBY issue.

Locals: Fix the local pipeline or stop consuming oil/gas. When your magic windmills are finally built and working, then you can remove the oil platforms.

Eggs Ackley Nov 06, 2021 09:39 AM
Santa Barbara Commission Vote Puts Exxon Oil Trucking Plan on Thin Ice

VOR, It’s not nearly as complicated as your obfuscation attempts to depict. It’s really quite simple: None of the oil extracted from our offshore waters locally is processed locally into consumer products. It all goes somewhere else to be refined, and aside from gasoline, then transported somewhere to be processed further into trash bags and soda straws and trillions of individual serving water bottles; so your argument is completely moot. 47.5% of California’s refinery supply comes from foreign suppliers, 17.5%from Alaska(energy.ca.gov). The industry is shrinking as transportation shifts to other alternatives, so why risk our environment? Your simple answer was taxes and jobs. If the industry used appropriate environmental safeguards as you suggest could happen via more regulation, why hasn’t the industry already imposed those measures. I just don’t understand how people can be so willing to trade massive environmental degradation for a few bucks. “Greed” pretty much sums it up.
Some say greed is one of the seven sins. What do you think?

Babycakes Nov 06, 2021 10:07 AM
Santa Barbara Commission Vote Puts Exxon Oil Trucking Plan on Thin Ice

EggsAckley: Unless I missed your point, which I doubt, you completely missed VOR's point. May I kindly suggest that you (and others) give up your addiction to oil and oil-based products or get on board with the program. Public and mass transportation are your friend....my friend! How ironic. LOL!!!.

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