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ExxonMobil files lawsuit against Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors over denial of oil trucking plan

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. – ExxonMobil on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors after the board denied its proposal for an oil trucking project back in March.

"We are seeking to set aside the Board of Supervisors’ recent decision on the grounds that their denial is an arbitrary, capricious, and unlawful prejudicial abuse of discretion, violates the United States and California’s Constitutions, and impairs ExxonMobil’s vested rights to restart and operate Santa Ynez Unit," Meghan Macdonald, spokeswoman for ExxonMobil, told News Channel 3-12.

ExxonMobil proposed a restart of its Santa Ynez Unit, which includes three offshore platforms and a processing facility on the Gaviota Coast. It called for up to 24,800 oil-filled truck trips per year on Highway 101 and hazardous Route 166 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.

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission denied the permit in November 2021, and the board denied the appeal of that decision on March 8, saying that it was too risky.

Now, ExxonMobil has filed a lawsuit against the board, saying that its Santa Ynez Unit provides numerous benefits to the community.

"Rather than focus on the merits of the project...the board improperly treated the consideration of the project as a referendum on offshore production as well as the transportation and use of crude oil in the County of Santa Barbara," the lawsuit, obtained by News Channel 3-12, claimed.

"But that was not the issue before it. The only question before the board was whether the project complies with federal, state, and local law. It does. Ironically, the board purportedly made its decision in the name of environmentalism, the project denial deprives consumers of a local, lower carbon-intensive, and more heavily regulated energy source than foreign-produced oil and gas."

The lawsuit states that some of the crude oil produced and processed at the Santa Ynez Unit helps to fuel California's transportation sector, and that it has less than half the carbon intensity of oil imported from overseas.

ExxonMobil claims that the Santa Ynez Unit "has a long history of safe, incident-free operations.

Santa Barbara County said that it does not comment on pending litigation.

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Jade Martinez-Pogue

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