Santa Maria signs off on ExxonMobil proposal to truck crude oil across Hwy 101

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Santa Maria City Council has signed off on a resolution supporting a county decision to temporarily restart oil operations. 

With little discussion it came down to a four to one vote, urging the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission to adopt an ExxonMobil proposal that would truck crude oil from the south coast along Highway 101 to the Phillips 66 Refinery north of Santa Maria. This could result in 70 oil tanker truck trips per day. 

Councilwoman Gloria Soto cast the lone vote in opposition, asking if the council could wait until they’ve received an Environmental Impact Report. She said she felt ill-informed to make a decision without it. 

As a result of the Plains All-American Pipeline incident near Refugio State Beach and subsequent shut down in May 2015, proponents argue that this is the only way to move product from the Las Flores Canyon facility.

The city resolution says when ExxonMobil suspended oil and gas production at its offshore operations, along with Las Flores Canyon, it impacted 200 employees and 130 contractors.

While some in the community hail this as essential economic engine and tout the award-winning safety of the business, there was hesitation when discussing public safety and environmental concerns. 

It would amount to a considerable probability of a dangerous spill or an accident. A faulty vehicle or a risk occurring that would put somebody at risk, said David Dennis of Santa Maria. 

“I started in this industry about ten years ago as a contractor and I can truly say that this facility has safe operations in environmental management as the top priority for every individual at our facility,” said Brian Smith, Regulatory and Safety Superintendent for California Operations. 

Those involved in the industry say most of the travel would be done at night and those 70 trucks would be spread out over 24 hours, with four trucks loading or unloading at a time.

“It’s not 70 trucks, 10 or 12 trucks that are doing these loops,” explained an oil industry official. 

Proponents say this is not an endorsement for off-shore oil production and the long-term plan is not to truck, it’s to resume pipeline operations. 

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