Santa Barbara County Releases ExxonMobil’s Revised Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil in California

Santa Barbara County Releases ExxonMobil’s Revised Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil in California title=
Offshore oil platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel (Photo: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management / Flickr)
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Source: Environmental Defense Center

Santa Barbara County has released a revised final environmental impact report for ExxonMobil’s proposal to transport oil by tanker trucks so it can restart three drilling platforms off California, setting up hearings and a vote on the project this fall. Santa Barbara County Planning Commission hearings on the plan were set for Sept. 29 and Oct. 1.  

The plan calls for up to 70 oil-filled trucks per day on coastal Highway 101 and hazardous Route 166, 24 hours a day, for up to seven years. Santa Barbara County planning staff last year recommended against trucking on Route 166 as too dangerous for motorists and natural resources such as the Cuyama River.  

The county revised the original FEIR that was released in July 2020 following news in August 2020 that Phillips 66 is shutting down its Santa Maria Refinery and related pipelines by 2023, placing an end date on ExxonMobil’s preferred option for getting its offshore oil to market.  

“ExxonMobil wants to put California communities and motorists in harm’s way, just to restart its dirty and dangerous offshore platforms,” said Kristen Monsell, ocean legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s unbelievable they still want to use hazardous Highway 166 over the strong objections of county planning staff. These decrepit offshore platforms should be decommissioned instead of brought back to life to threaten our lives and climate.” 

The FEIR concludes that 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 FEIR does not analyze the numerous harmful impacts of bringing Exxon’s offshore platforms back online. 

“The county’s final environmental impact report fails to disclose the devastating impacts that will result if ExxonMobil is allowed to resume oil drilling in the Santa Barbara Channel and truck oil along our scenic highways,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Center, which represents Get Oil Out! and SBCAN. “ExxonMobil’s proposal will result in more oil spills, air pollution, and increased climate change at a time when we need to pursue clean energy alternatives.” 

A majority of Santa Barbara County voters say they oppose proposals to restart ExxonMobil’s offshore drilling platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel, according to aNovember 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.” 

“Trucks are the least safe way to transport oil — in human death, property destruction, and amount of oil spilled,” said Katie Davis, chair of the Sierra Club’s Los Padres Chapter. “Not only that, but this environmental report is severely lacking by leaving out the oil spills and other risks of restarting the aging oil rigs and Gaviota Coast oil facilities, which were one of the largest sources of air pollution in the county. No wonder this proposal has faced immense backlash and opposition from Chumash elders to students to businesses to city councils.” 

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. The company proposes to restart its platforms and load its offshore oil onto tanker trucks at its Las Flores Canyon processing facility. The trucks would transport up to 470,400 gallons of oil per day up to 140 miles to refineries in Santa Maria and then Kern County. 

“In light of the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, we are reminded that climate change is happening now, and it is worse than we thought,” said Ken Hough, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Action Network. “We cannot afford to approve any new projects that will facilitate fossil fuel extraction in Santa Barbara County, including ExxonMobil's proposal to restart its platforms and truck its oil. We need companies like ExxonMobil to stop polluting our atmosphere, air, and waters, and to instead lead the renewable energy transition.” 

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. 

Tanker trucks spill hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil per year, according to an American Petroleum Institute report. These oil spills can cause fires and explosions. AnAssociated Press study of six states where truck traffic has increased because of increased oil and gas drilling found that fatalities in traffic accidents have more than quadrupled since 2004 in some counties. 

“Not only do the Chumash people originate from our local lands and waters, but Chumash culture itself is created from the relationship we have maintained with all beings in these ecosystems since time immemorial,” said Alicia Cordero, First Nations program officer with the Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation. “It is our sacred duty to protect and care for this natural abundance that all beings depend upon. As residents in the Chumash homelands today, we call on all of the peoples of Santa Barbara County to share this responsibility with us to safeguard the area’s natural cultural resources. We must reject Exxon’s dangerous proposal which presents an unacceptable risk to these lands, waterways, and the ocean itself.” 

Offshore oil development also poses unacceptable risks of spills and air and water pollution. Oil spills near the Santa Barbara coastline threaten a wide range of federally protected endangered species, including blue whales, sea otters and California tiger salamanders. 

“As an organization representing the younger generation, we are concerned for the health and safety of our local community as well as the implications that a seven-year trucking program will have in the fight against climate change,” said Soham Ray of the UCSB Environmental Affairs Board. “ExxonMobil knows that it is a significant contributor to climate change yet continues to exacerbate the problem by pushing projects like this unsafe and unjust trucking plan.”  

ExxonMobil 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 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, and the Cuyama Valley Community Association and the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation. 

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RHS Aug 18, 2021 01:05 PM
Santa Barbara County Releases ExxonMobil’s Revised Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil in California

Please take a deep breath folks. This "request" smacks of the odor of a blatant bargaining chip. By threatening the reopening of the wells and transportation of the product ExxonMobil creates an ability to negotiate to reduce what they are obligated to do under existing law--remove the platforms at their cost. In the next few months they will be offering to not re-open if the government agrees to relieve them of costs associated with the removal of the platforms and infra structure. Some of these offers will sound good--i.e., "leave the infrastructure as habitat for the marine life" or "use the platforms to support wind generated electric output." They cannot seriously think that the production of oil in failing wells is worth the fight it would create unless for reasons such as noted here.

Stray Aug 18, 2021 03:49 PM
Santa Barbara County Releases ExxonMobil’s Revised Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil in California

Note to ExxonMobil: your Las Flores processing facility is in a canyon between El Capitan and Refugio State Beaches, along what we call the Gaviota Coast. With an east-west mountain range, southern exposure and a Mediterranean climate, the Gaviota Coast is home to one of the most diverse plant, animal, and marine life habitats on earth. This coastline isn't a petroleum basin like Midland, Texas, where a tanker truck spill or two is routine collateral damage to your profit margin. Think again about running 70 oil tanker trucks along the Gaviota Coast each day for the next seven years. Then think some more. Take your refining business elsewhere.

Voice of Reason Aug 18, 2021 04:46 PM
Santa Barbara County Releases ExxonMobil’s Revised Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil in California

Stray, 1st, pushing petroleum extraction and processing elsewhere while still consuming it here is environmental NIMBY'ism plain and simple. Actually it's worse overall for the environment if that petroleum is extracted/processed in areas with signfincitaly fewer environmental protections in place, then shipped via boat, train, truck all the way here.

2nd, our coast is absolutely a petroleum basin. It is the second largest marine oil seep in the world and releases 10,000 gallons of oil into our ocean each day (it's still pollution even if it's natural seepage!). For comparison, an oil tanker truck holds about 8,000 gallons. It would suck, but a tanker truck or two dumped into the ocean would hardly be noticed.

Now, before the comments start about me being a far-right, polluting, greedy Exxon stock holding A-hole, terrorist, I 100% value and appreciate the environment, I'm in the ocean or out in nature as often as i can be, drive a plug-in hybrid and have solar panels on my home. While we still need petroleum products, extraction and production can be conducted in a environmentally safe manner, it would reduce the amount of natural seepage, and the taxes/royalties produced (locally) can help fund our continued transition to greener sources.

Stray Aug 18, 2021 05:48 PM
Santa Barbara County Releases ExxonMobil’s Revised Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil in California

VOR, my friend, please educate yourself about the special features and uniqueness of the Gaviota Coast. There are only a handful of habitats in this world that enjoy such features: a mix of marine life from northern and southern waters, a mix of special plants and birds that thrive in our southern coastal exposure, a migration corridor for mammals from the coast to the front country and beyond. It's not a jewel to throw under the bus (or a tanker truck's 8,000 gallons of oil). Second, regarding NIMBYism, you don't live near the plant that produces the electricity you consume, but that doesn't stop you from using it, does it? You don't live near northern california water, but you accept water deliveries from the aqueduct, don't you? Is one supposed to live next to a hydroelectric or nuclear power plant? No doubt there is some natural oil seepage in the Channel; the Chumash used it once upon a time to caulk their boats. But I suspect there are a lot more wildcat oil rigs that played out in the 1940's-50's that were hastily sealed by rags and concrete (if anything) as the oil companies moved on to more fertile drilling areas that are fouling our ocean and beaches to this day. Remember the 1969 oil rig channel blowout? Of course you do, each year on the Earth Day that happened thereafter. Do your fracking or drilling someplace else than our beloved and special south coast.

Babycakes Aug 18, 2021 06:16 PM
Santa Barbara County Releases ExxonMobil’s Revised Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil in California

Stray: If you are using petroleum products, then you are part of the problem. Our government recently asked OPEC to step up production. Some may ask why our government did this. The reason is that we need the oil. I would think you folks would "get it" at some point, but continue supporting Big Oil each and every day. "Hey OPEC, turn up production!" sez the Buffo at 1600 Penn.

Voice of Reason Aug 18, 2021 08:09 PM
Santa Barbara County Releases ExxonMobil’s Revised Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil in California

"Do your fracking or drilling someplace else than our beloved and special south coast." Well, whose beloved coast shall I do 'my' drilling on? I'm assuming you don't use petroleum products otherwise you would have said do 'our' drilling. This view doesn't exclude me from knowing, appreciating, and enjoying the special features and uniqueness of our coast; I mentioned I'm in or on the ocean as often as I can. The concerns you bring up with examples from 50+ years ago can and have been addressed with the strict environmental controls we have today, and can still be further solidified. Or... we can invest in new technology and build safe, next-gen nuclear reactors to supply our coast with nearly unlimited clean energy and fresh water rendering petroleum based energy sources obsolete. (but ahh... nuclear so scary...)

JB86 Aug 18, 2021 07:53 PM
Santa Barbara County Releases ExxonMobil’s Revised Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil in California

Why not cut to the chase? Greens want to end petroleum extraction in the County, and they appear to have the upper hand. If they get their way, then the question becomes; where do we make up the taxes formerly paid by energy companies? Cannabis? Don't think so; revenues have lagged what proponents touted from the beginning, and most MJ in CA still is provided by 'illegal' producers at cheaper prices. Bed taxes on chump tourists? Maybe a little, but there is a logical limit. One way or another the end game is higher taxes. If that's what folks want, fine with me; I don't have a problem paying $7 or even $10 a gallon for gas. Some folks might, however.

Byzantium Aug 18, 2021 08:42 PM
Santa Barbara County Releases ExxonMobil’s Revised Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil in California

Why is it okay to go massive infill and go multi-story high rise on our precious coastal land, while our precious coastal oceans must remain pristine and untouched? If the only argument is an oil spill now decades past - dramatic as it was - and one or two lousy operators like Greka, I'd say the oil industry in this area has well earned a solid vote of confidence. Pot will ultimately be far more destructive to everyone than our continued responsible oil and gas industries. Maybe, just maybe, the billions of research dollars we keep pouring into our land grand public universities will finally deliver the energy break-throughs they should already be working on.

Eggs Ackley Aug 19, 2021 09:11 AM
Santa Barbara County Releases ExxonMobil’s Revised Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil in California

Deepwater horizon was 2010, not “decades ago”.
“Solid vote of confidence” and Greka in the same sentence. SMH
Do you get laid off by Plains All American?
The facts do not support these undeniably biased and false assertions.
I support the first amendment and the right of my fellow citizens to tell bald-faced lies on public forums. Such jackassery is fully supported by our constitution.

JB86 Aug 18, 2021 11:05 PM
Santa Barbara County Releases ExxonMobil’s Revised Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil in California

Petroleum as fuel is not the whole story. Petroleum products - yes, from oil - provide the basis of all manner of things keeping you alive, from IV tubing and other medical products, to the safety features in your car. It isn't just about gasoline and energy production. Look around your home and see what is based on petroleum - from your computer to your re-cycle bins. It ain't that simple.

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