Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 5:15 pm | Fair 69º


Local News

Santa Barbara County Denies ExxonMobil’s Request to Truck Oil

Santa Barbara County has denied ExxonMobil's request to temporarily truck oil from its local processing plant while the crude-oil pipeline along the Gaviota Coast remains shut down after the recent Refugio spill.

The company uses the Plains All American pipeline, which ruptured May 19, to transport oil from its Las Flores Canyon facility up the Gaviota Coast, linking with another line that goes to Bakersfield. 

ExxonMobil last week submitted an application for an emergency permit, saying there would be a maximum of eight trucks per hour loading and transporting oil from the processing facility. 

The permit application was denied Tuesday by Dianne Black, assistant director of planning and development, according to Lael Wageneck, public engagement coordinator with the County Executive Office. 

ExxonMobil's request did not submit adequate evidence that an emergency exists or that the proposal needs an action more quickly than the usual permit-processing procedure, according to the county. 

Trucking crude oil doesn't fall within the permit waivers included in Gov. Jerry Brown's declaration of emergency, which requested that jurisdictions issue emergency permits to facilitate clean-up response efforts and get fishing, public beaches and public waters reopened, according to the county. 

Since the pipeline ruptured and was shut down, ExxonMobil has decreased its daily production from 30,000 barrels per day to about 8,500 barrels since it has limited storage at Las Flores Canyon facilities. In the proposal, trucks would deliver crude oil to the Gaviota Heating Oil Facility operated by Freeport-McMoRan in Gaviota; the Santa Maria Asphalt Refinery operated by Greka Refining; the Battles Tank Farm in Santa Maria operated by Phillips 66; and the Santa Maria Refinery in Nipomo operated by Phillips 66.

While the other companies using the shut-down Plains pipelines stopped production —​ FreePort-McMoRan and Venoco, Inc. — ExxonMobil has continued producing oil and natural gas from its offshore production wells, but cut back so it would fit in the onsite storage tanks at Las Flores Canyon.

ExxonMobil said it would fill the onsite storage in less than a month so without an alternative transportation plan, both oil and gas production facilities would be shut down, according to the permit application. The natural gas is contracted for sale to the Southern California Gas Company.

The company argued that the Las Flores Canyon processing facility's natural gas was needed to fill local energy demand, but the county disagreed. 

“No evidence was submitted that shows the SoCalGas would be unable to serve its customers absent the gas production from ExxonMobil’s Santa Ynez Unit," Black wrote.

That facility provided 0.66 percent of SoCalGas' natural gas supply in 2014, and the company has a network of providers, she noted. 

"Local areas are not dependent on local gas resources," Black wrote. 

ExxonMobil also argued that local school districts rely on tax revenue from their oil and gas production facilities. 

"If tax revenue is lost due to the ruptured pipeline, the school districts can file a claim through the claims process with Plains All American Pipeline provided to address these financial effects," Black wrote in the letter. 

ExxonMobil cannot appeal the decision, but can apply for a non-emergency permit through the county process, which includes a California Environmental Quality Act review and a public hearing, according to the county. 

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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