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Planning Commission rejects ExxonMobil proposal to truck oil off Santa Barbara coast

Flickr member Mike Baird
The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission voted to deny an ExxonMobil proposal to temporarily transport oil along Highways 101 and 166.

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission voted to deny an ExxonMobil proposal to temporarily transport oil along Highways 101 and 166, despite recommended approval by planning staff. This essentially bars the company from restarting three of its offshore drilling platforms.

ExxonMobil’s plan proposed nearly 25,000 truck trips a year to transport oil from its Santa Ynez Unit to refineries on the two highways. This would allow the company to restart three offshore drilling platforms that were shut down in 2015 after the Plains All American Pipeline ruptured in the area.

In a statement to KCBX News, ExxonMobil said, in part:

‘We are disappointed that the Planning Commission did not adopt the staff’s recommendations. We also appreciate the continuing support of numerous organizations and community members who recognize the many benefits that resuming safe operations at SYU would bring to Santa Barbara County, including local jobs and millions in vital tax revenues for county schools, public safety and healthcare services.’

Julie Teel Simmonds is a Senior Attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of many environmental groups in a coalition opposing the trucking plan. She said the planning commission decision came at the right time.

“We feel like the recent catastrophic spill off Orange County just underscores that this commission has made the right decision,” Simmonds said.

Simmonds said even without these kinds of spills, there are still devastating impacts of transporting oil from offshore platforms.

“From the air quality impacts, to the water quality impacts, wildlife impacts, habitat impacts,” Simmonds said. “But then add, on top of that, the risk of spill. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

ExxonMobile said it continues to maintain its onshore and offshore facilities in a ‘safe, preserved state.’ The company said the Santa Ynez Unit facilities and related infrastructure went through extensive environmental reviews during its construction. According to the ExxonMobil website, that construction began in 1976.

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission will hold a formal vote November 3 to finalize their decision. This decision will serve as a recommendation for future consideration by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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