Oil workers spill out of crowded public meeting to review interim trucking project proposal

Draft environmental impact report discussed

Oil trucking supporters and opponents pack public hearing in Santa Barbara

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Oil company workers and supporters outnumbered environmentalists for a change at a public meeting about the "ExxonMobil Interim Trucking for SYU Phased Restart Project." SYU stands for Santa Ynez Unit.

One worker said they were on the clock. 

During public comments, many of them said they would like to see offshore platforms back up and running.

The restart of ExxonMobil platforms Hondo, Harmony and Heritage hinges on the interim trucking of oil until another pipeline is in place, although a new pipeline has yet to be approved.

The platforms stopped producing oil when a Plains All American Pipeline ruptured on May 19, 2015 causing the second largest oil spill in Santa Barbara County history.

Oil company workers and supporters are at odds with environmentalist over whether
ExxonMobil should be able truck crude oil to facilities in Santa Maria and Maricopa. The plan calls for 70 truck trips a day with the exception of rainy days.

ExxonMobil operations manager Jing Wan said they trucked remaining crude oil from the platforms right after the spill without a problem.

"We will apply the highest safety standards to ensure safe operations and we have very well-trained and confident people who have been part of the community for the last four decades," said Wan.

Blake Kopcho opposed the plan. He is the Center for Biological Diversity's senior oceans campaigner.

"California is the number one in the nation for clean energy jobs, we no longer need to rely on the fossil fuel industry for good-paying jobs for California families," said Kopcho. 

Lad Handelman who co-founded Stop Oil Seeps said he favors the plan.

SOS supporters said oil platform production releases the pressure of natural seeps.

Several attorneys spoke out against the plan.

Attorney Kriston Monsell with the Center for Biological Diversity Attorney said, "Trucking oil is inherently dangerous and the draft supplemental environmental impact report (SEIR) fails to adequately analyze the risks."  She said the county must revise the report and recirculate it for public comment.

 Eric Baker said he wants the county to approve the project without delay to bring jobs back.

"I personally would love to see my friends, family and colleagues come back home, as many of them have had to leave since the shutdown of the facility and I would love to see their families flourish again while working in a safe and caring facility," said Baker.

The meeting in front of the Energy, Mineral and Compliance Division staff members lasted for a couple of hours. 

The 46-day public comment period is open until May 28.

For more information, click here.

Recommended Stories

Top Local Stories