Should Pacific Pipeline Co. be allowed to install safety valves on the Santa Barbara County crude oil pipelines it purchased from Plains?
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to take up the issue on Aug. 22. The county Planning Commission denied PPC, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, its request to install 16 safety valves along the 122 miles of pipeline it now owns.
PPC is appealing that to the Board of Supervisors.
ExxonMobil bought the pipelines from Plains last year and plans to sell them — and its other local oil production infrastructure — to a newly created corporation, Sable Offshore Corp.
County planning staff initially approved PPC’s request to add the safety valves, which are required by Assembly Bill 864 requiring operators in the coastal zone to use the “best available technology” to reduce the amount of oil spilled in an oil spill.
Three groups appealed the approval. The Planning Commission sided with them and denied the project in April.
“The Planning Commission was without jurisdiction and had no basis to deny the safety valves based on speculative conclusions about the safety of pipeline operations,” PPC representatives wrote in their appeal application to the county.
They argued that the project denial was an “abuse of discretion” and was based on the overall safety and operation of the pipelines, not the valve construction itself. And that’s outside the county’s jurisdiction, they argued.
Planning staff usually present a recommendation to the supervisors, but do not in the staff report for the appeal hearing. Supervisors can uphold the appeal (and approve the project) or deny the appeal and deny the project.
When the staff-level approval of the valve installation project was first appealed, staff recommended that the Planning Commission deny the appeals and approve the project.
Instead, commissioners made findings for denying the project.
The Aug. 22 Board of Supervisors meeting will be held in Santa Maria at the Joseph Centeno Betteravia Government Administration Building, 511 E. Lakeside Pkwy.
The supervisors will be holding all of their meetings in the Santa Maria location until the end of October since the Santa Barbara hearing room is having audio and visual upgrade work being done, according to the County Executive Office.