The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 on Tuesday to approve the change of ownership, operation and guarantor for the Las Flores Pipeline system to Pacific Pipeline Co. — a subsidiary of ExxonMobil — and denied the appeal to stop the change.
Supervisor Joan Hartmann recused herself from the vote and discussion because of the pipeline’s proximity to her property.
Last October, ExxonMobil bought lines 901 and 903 from Plains All American. The 122 miles of pipeline run through Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern counties to transport oil from offshore platforms to refineries.
Plains All American was the owner and operator of the pipeline when it ruptured and caused the Refugio oil spill in 2015.
Barry Cappello represented the landowners appealing the ownership change, and urged the board not to approve the permit transfer without implementing safety conditions. However, the county only has the authority to approve or deny the change of ownership, not place conditions on it, according to staff.
The ownership change does not impact the potential restart of the pipeline, which is a process overseen by the state fire marshal, according to PPC and county planning staff.
PPC is already the owner of the pipeline, and the board’s decision means the county permits for the pipeline align with the actual owner, according to staff.
“Even if we don’t approve this, it doesn’t change anything functionally,” Supervisor Bob Nelson said on Tuesday.
Supervisor Laura Capps noted that while she wants to decrease the county’s dependency on fossil fuels, she agreed with the recommendation that change of ownership does not have any impact on the environment.
“It’s not about the integrity of the pipeline,” Capps said on Tuesday. “This is about the integrity of making sure that our county permit actually matches the company that owns the pipeline, and that is important.”