Officials in Santa Barbara County are weighing a request by ExxonMobil to permit trucks to haul thousands of barrels of oil after a spill last month shut down its pipeline operation in the area.
SCS Tracer Environmental filed the request June 4 on behalf of Exxon, seeking an emergency permit to truck crude oil from the Santa Ynez Unit Facility in Las Flores Canyon to “various offsite locations throughout the region.” The letter states that with the Plains All American Pipeline shut down for what could be weeks or months, ExxonMobil has no other approved means of transporting oil out of the facility. The crude at the Santa Ynez facility is used for natural gas that is provided to the Southern California Gas Co. A copy of the complete request can be viewed here.
A decision on the request is expected next week.
On May 19, an estimated 101,000 gallons of crude gushed from a rupture in a 10.6-mile-long pipeline and spilled up to 21,000 gallons of it into the Pacific Ocean near Refugio State Beach, the largest coastal oil spill in California in 25 years. The spill created a nine-mile ocean slick and affected beaches in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
The application states that even though ExxonMobil has reduced production by two-thirds at the facility since the spill, with no way to transport the oil off the premises capacity will be reached in a month.
The plan calls for dispatching as many as eight trucks an hour, 24 hours a day, with each truck carrying more than 160 barrels of oil. The routes for transport include Pacific Coast Highway 1 and Highway 101.
Two wildlife conservation and environmental protection groups have written a letter asking county officials to reject the plan, and threatening legal action.
“Trucking a million gallons of crude oil a day down winding coastal highways is a recipe for another disaster,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the Center For Biological Diversity. “A ruptured pipeline just devastated Santa Barbara’s beautiful coast. An oil truck accident would add to this damage and could kill people. That’s why county officials must reject this outrageously dangerous plan.”
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