Santa Barbara County to Vote on ExxonMobil Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil in California
July 30, 2020
Final Environmental Study Released, Project Approval Hearings Announced
SANTA BARBARA, Calif.— Santa Barbara County has released the final environmental impact report on ExxonMobil’s proposal to transport oil by tanker trucks so it can restart three drilling platforms off California, setting up a vote on the project.
The plan calls for up to 70 oil-filled trucks per day on coastal Highway 101 and Route 166, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission is scheduled to hold hearings on the project on Sept. 2 and Sept. 9 before voting on it.
“ExxonMobil would 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. “Sending oil tanker trucks along California’s coastal highway all day and night risks deadly accidents. Santa Barbara County should reject this reckless plan and urge ExxonMobil to decommission its platforms. We should end offshore drilling along this beautiful, bountiful coastline, not revive it.”
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 a recent 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 hundreds 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 Kern County and Santa Maria.
“We need Santa Barbara County supervisors to stand with and for frontline communities and reject Exxon’s dangerous trucking scheme,” said Ana Rosa Rizo-Centino, senior organizer with Food & Water Action. “Should any accident occur, farmworkers and families could be severely harmed from exposure to toxic oil. Community health should be prioritized above all things. We hope COVID-19 has at least taught us all this lesson.”
California suffers hundreds of oil-truck incidents a year, and many result in oil spills. There were 216 trucking accidents along the route from 2015 to 2020, California Highway Patrol data show, resulting in nine deaths and 92 injuries. A tanker truck crashed off Highway 166 on March 21, 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. An Associated 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.
ExxonMobil 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, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Defense Center, Food and Water Action, GOO!, SBCAN, Sierra Club’s Los Padres Chapter, UCSB Academic Senator Esmeralda Quintero-Cubillan and Surfrider Foundation Santa Barbara County Chapter.