Santa Barbara rejects ExxonMobil request for emergency oil transport

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Citing a lack of adequate evidence that an emergency exists, the Santa Barbara County Planning and Development department has denied a request by ExxonMobil for an emergency permit to haul thousands of barrels of oil by truck after a spill last month shut down its pipeline operation in the area.

Dianne Black, acting as director of the department, issued a formal letter to ExxonMobil representatives denying the request for an emergency permit, but left the door open for the company to apply for a permit via the normal, nonemergency process, which would include a review by the California Environmental Quality Act as well as a public hearing.

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.

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.

ExxonMobil’s plan called 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.

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