SANTA BARBARA, Calif. March 8, 2022 -The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted today to reject ExxonMobil’s proposal to transport oil by tanker trucks along hazardous California highways. The plan would have helped the company restart three 1980s drilling platforms off the Santa Barbara coast, shut down since the Refugio disaster seven years ago.
Today’s vote comes on the heels of a disturbing new report from international scientists on climate change’s intense and mounting damages. It follows last year’s disastrous oil spill off Huntington Beach, another offshore oil leak from DCOR Pipeline 0919, an oil tanker truck accident and fire in Santa Maria, and the Alisal Fire that threatened the ExxonMobil’s Las Flores Canyon oil-processing facility, where trucks would load crude.
ExxonMobil’s plan would have added up to 24,800 oil-filled truck trips a year on coastal Highway 101 and hazardous Route 166. 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. In 2020 county planning staff recommended a prohibition on oil tanker trucks on Route 166 after a major accident spilled more than 4,500 gallons into the Cuyama River.
“Recent oil tanker truck accidents and offshore oil spills show how dangerous ExxonMobil’s proposal to restart its offshore oil platforms and truck crude oil along scenic and perilous county highways is. Our research revealed that there have been eight serious accidents involving tanker trucks along the route in the last several years, resulting in deaths, oil spills, injuries, fires, and road closures,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, which represents Get Oil Out! and Santa Barbara County Action Network. “We applaud the Board’s vote against ExxonMobil’s project, which puts the safety of our communities, climate and coastlines first.”
The county’s rejection of ExxonMobil’s proposal was based on the project’s significant and unavoidable harms to biological, water and cultural resources in the event of a spill, as well as the proposed trucking’s other threats to health, safety and general welfare.
“The Environmental Affairs Board celebrates the Board of Supervisor’s decision to reject Exxon’s trucking proposal once and for all,” said the Environmental Affairs Board at University of California at Santa Barbara. “Exxon’s trucking proposal was a step in the wrong direction on climate and put Californians and our coastal resources in harm’s way from spills, crashes, pollution and fires. This vote gives our generation of students hope that the county is transitioning to a clean, safe and just future without delay.”
California suffers hundreds of oil-truck incidents a year, and many result in oil spills. There were 258 trucking accidents along the planned route from 2015 to 2021; since 2007 eight oil tanker truck accidents have occurred that resulted in six deaths, multiple injuries, fires, road closures, and oil spills.
“This is an enormous victory against oil industry pollution and this trucking plan’s significant threats to public safety,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ve seen oil spill after oil spill along the California coast, and it’s incredibly encouraging to see Santa Barbara County supervisors take a stand against this dirty and dangerous industry.”
A majority of Santa Barbara County voters oppose restarting ExxonMobil’s offshore drilling platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel, according to a November 2019 poll. Nearly 3 out of 4 respondents said they were concerned “about the safety of our local highways if up to 70 oil tanker trucks are allowed on our roads each day.”
“The Huntington spill sadly brought into clear, devastating focus why restarting Exxon’s 40-year-old platforms, beyond their max 35-year life, with a history of corrosion and spills, would place our entire coastline at risk,” said Katie Davis, chair of the Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter, which also submitted a petition, signed by more than 2,000 people, opposing the project. “Offshore oil is too risky. We know it, and the industry and regulators know it. It’s why 7,500 businesses and 90 cities on the Pacific coast are on record opposing offshore oil.”
“The Board has taken the right stance today and protected Chumash homelands and homewaters from this unthinkable project,” said Mariza Sullivan, Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation Tribal representative. “The Chumash people will not condone this or other destructive fossil fuel projects passing through our ancestral lands.”
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The coalition opposing ExxonMobil’s trucking plan includes 350 Santa Barbara, the California Coastal Protection Network, the California Wildlife Foundation/California Oaks, CalTrout, Carpinteria Valley Association, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Oceanic Awareness Research, and Education (COARE), Channel Islands Restoration, Citizens Planning Association, Climate First: Replacing Oil and Gas, the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation, Coastal Ranches Conservancy, Community Environmental Council, the Cuyama Valley Community Association, Eco Vista, Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo, Environmental Defense Center, Explore Ecology, Food & Water Watch, Food and Water Action, Fund for Santa Barbara, Gaviota Coast Conservancy, Get Oil Out!, Goleta Goodland Coalition, Goodland Coalition, Heal the Bay, Heal the Ocean, the League of Women Voters (Santa Barbara), Los Padres ForestWatch, Northern California Recycling Association, the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Plastics Ocean International, Santa Barbara Audubon, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, Santa Barbara County Action Network, the Santa Barbara Standing Rock Coalition, the Santa Barbara Urban Creeks Council, Save Our Shores, the SB Museum of Natural History & Sea Ctr, Seventh Generation Advisors, Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter, Sierra Club Santa Lucia Chapter, Society of Fearless Grandmothers (SB), Surfrider Foundation, Surfrider Foundation Santa Barbara County Chapter, The 5 Gyres Institute, UCSB Associated Students External Vice President for Statewide Affairs Esmeralda Quintero-Cubillan, UCSB Coastal Fund, UCSB Environmental Affairs Board, UCSB Environmental Justice Alliance, UPSTREAM, WE Watch, Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, and Zero Waste USA.