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Santa Barbara Co. Planning Commission denies ExxonMobil trucking plan

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission voted Wednesday to recommend denial of ExxonMobil’s proposal to transport oil by tanker trucks along California highways. 

The plan would help the company restart three drilling platforms off the Santa Barbara coast.

ExxonMobil’s plan calls for up to 24,800 oil-filled truck trips a year on coastal Highway 101 and hazardous Route 166, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, for up to seven years or whenever a new coastal oil pipeline is completed. ExxonMobil’s three offshore platforms near Santa Barbara were shut down in 2015 after the Plains All American Pipeline ruptured and spilled thousands of gallons of oil.

“Highway 166 does have a higher accident rate than other areas,” Santa Barbara County Planning & Development deputy director John Zorovich said. “This project would include traffic onto the roadway.”

Wednesday’s 3-2 final vote finalized the commission’s Sept. 29 conceptual decision to recommend denial. 

Throughout the meeting, commissioners adopted revised findings recommending denial in light of the project’s significant and unavoidable impacts to biological, water and cultural resources in the event of a spill, as well as the proposed trucking’s other impacts on health, safety, comfort, convenience and general welfare.

“When I supported the motion to deny the case, it was based on the finding of neighborhood compatibility allowed for the development,” 2nd district Santa Barbara County planning commissioner Laura Bridley said.

ExxonMobil Santa Ynez Unit asset manager Bryan Anderson had hoped that the planning commission would reconsider its decision.

“The planning commission’s determination is not supported by overwhelming evidence and years of analysis,” he said. “Instead the commission has based its decision on the limited concerns of non-expert opinions.”

Throughout the meeting, a majority of residents voiced support for denying the plan.

“Saying no to ExxonMobil’s plan to add up to 24,000 oil-filled truck trips a year is a big step in the right direction,” Santa Barbara County resident Julie Simmons said. “For our environment, climate and public safety.”

Some also cited the Alisal Fire which threatened ExxonMobil’s Las Flores Canyon processing facility, where trucks would load crude.

“The climate-changed, super-charged Alisal Fire devastating the Gaviota Coast demonstrates that this restart plan was a nonstarter from the start,” Los Padres Sierra Club member Jonathan Allman said.

The commission’s denial recommendation will now go to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for a final decision.

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Blake DeVine

Blake DeVine is a multimedia journalist and sports anchor at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Blake, click here.

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