SANTA BARBARA, Calif.– The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission has voted to reject ExxonMobil’s proposal to haul oil by tanker truck along California’s dangerous freeway to restore three drilling platforms off the Santa Barbara coast. The first 3-2 vote came unexpectedly on September 29th, during the first of two days of scheduled public hearings on the project, and is expected to follow on November 3rd with a formal vote and results recommending that the board of directors reject the project .
ExxonMobil’s plan is for up to 24,800 oil-filled truck trips per year on coastal Highway 101 and dangerous Route 166 to refineries 24 hours a day for up to seven years or whenever a new coastal oil pipeline is completed, as the case may be what is shorter. ExxonMobil’s three offshore platforms near Santa Barbara were shut down in 2015 after the Plains All American Pipeline burst and thousands of gallons of oil spilled along the California coast.
âOur community has spoken out loud and clear against this project, and the commission did the right thing in recommending that ExxonMobil should reject ExxonMobil’s request to recommission its offshore platforms and oil on dangerous and scenic county roads to transport, âsaid Linda Krop, chief lawyer at the Federal Environment Agency Defense Center, which is responsible for Get Oil Out! and Santa Barbara County Action Network. âThe risk to our climate, the Santa Barbara Channel, and the safety of our communities warrants a refusal. We look forward to working with the district on the transition to a clean energy future. “
The revised supplementary environmental impact report examined by the Commission concludes that the project would have significant, inevitable impacts, including significant impacts on wildlife and cultural resources in the event of an oil spill from a tanker truck. The document does not analyze the numerous deleterious effects of recommissioning Exxon’s offshore platforms. The planning committee’s recommended rejection of the project will be submitted to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for final decision by the county.
“The Environmental Affairs Board is thrilled that the Planning Commission made the right decision to recommend rejecting Exxon’s trucking proposal,” said the Environmental Affairs Board of the University of California at Santa Barbara. âExxon’s proposal ignored the inevitable risks of spills, falls, fire, and habitat destruction. It would further delay our local transition to a clean, safe and just future. Climate change is a looming crisis for our generation of students, and such victories give us hope for the future. “
California suffers hundreds of oil truck accidents every year, and many result in oil spills. According to California Highway Patrol data, there were 258 truck accidents between 2015 and 2021, with 10 dead and 110 injured. A tanker truck crashed off Highway 166 in March 2020, spilling more than 4,500 gallons of oil in the Cuyama River above the Twitchell Reservoir.
“To hear that public safety and environmental commissioners are prioritizing ExxonMobil’s unnecessary and dangerous proposal for oil transportation was encouraging,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, senior lawyer at the Center for Biodiversity. “It really feels like Santa Barbara County is poised to take national leadership in the clean energy transition.”
According to a November 2019 poll, a majority of Santa Barbara County’s voters have opposed proposals to restart ExxonMobil’s offshore drilling platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel. Almost 3 in 4 respondents said they are concerned about the safety of our local highways with up to 70 oil tankers being allowed to drive on our roads every day.
“The restart of these 40-year-old platforms, past their 35-year maximum lifespan, with a history of corrosion and spillage, is putting our entire coastline at risk,” said Katie Davis, chairwoman of the Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter, who also filed one Petition signed by over 2,000 people that opposed the project. âOffshore oil is so risky that even Republican states like Florida have stopped offshore oil production. For this reason, 7,500 companies and 90 cities on the Pacific coast are on record against offshore oil. “
ExxonMobil’s oil truck program is firmly opposed by a coalition of 35 community and conservation organizations that recently sent the commission a letter asking them to reject the project. They pointed to the threat to the project from further offshore oil spills, climate change and the endangerment of motorists and communities from dangerous oil tanker truck accidents.
“Now is not the time to turn back the clock and return to our old ways of relying on fossil fuels to meet our energy needs,” the letter concludes. âSanta Barbara County is moving towards a clean energy future by adopting renewable energy goals and joining the Central Coast Community Energy program. If we allow ExxonMobil to resume oil production off our coast, it will result in decades of fossil fuel production that we cannot afford. “
ExxonMobil’s plans to restart its offshore platforms and onshore processing facilities will also generate huge greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to climate change, undermining the state and national climate goals and targets of the county’s energy and climate protection plan, which was passed in May 2015 .
The coalition opposing ExxonMobil’s trucking plan includes the Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, 350 Santa Barbara, the Center for Biological Diversity, Climate First: Replacecing Oil and Gas (CFROG), the Environmental Defense Center, Food and Water Action, GOO !, SBCAN, Los Padres of the Sierra Club Chapter, UCSB Associated Students External Vice President for Nationwide Affairs Esmeralda Quintero-Cuvillan, 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.