Plan to increase production at Mesa oil refinery wins county's OK

The Phillips 66 oil refinery, located on a 1,644-acre parcel off Highway 1 west of Nipomo, has operated since 1955.
The Phillips 66 oil refinery, located on a 1,644-acre parcel off Highway 1 west of Nipomo, has operated since 1955. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Plans to increase the production at the Phillips 66 oil refinery on the Nipomo Mesa received final county approval Tuesday.

The request to increase the capacity of the plant by 10 percent was appealed by Jeff Edwards of Los Osos, who argued that an access easement across the refinery property that is required as part of the deal is inadequate.

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to deny the appeal and uphold the Planning Commission’s decision to approve the project.

The appeal centered on a dirt road that runs through the refinery property to the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. Refinery workers use the road to access an ocean outfall.

As a requirement for approval of the capacity increase, the county required that refinery owners ConocoPhillips offer a 10-foot-wide easement on the road that might eventually be used as a third public access point to the park’s riding area. The exact width, location and other details about the access road would be determined within the next 10 years by future studies, said Murry Wilson, a county environmental resource specialist.

The appeal asked that the easement be increased to 100 feet wide and that the California State Parks Department be required to fund any improvements to the road, rather than ConocoPhillips. This would help fulfill the long-standing need for a third, inland access route to Oceano Dunes, Edwards said.

“This would set the stage for State Parks to pick up the ball and run with it,” he said.

Jean St. Martin, an attorney for ConocoPhillips, successfully argued that Edwards’ demands would be out of proportion with the environmental impact of the capacity increase which does not require that any physical improvements be made to the refinery.

Capacity of the refinery will be increased from 44,500 to 48,950 barrels per day. The facility takes locally produced crude oil and removes coke and sulfur from it before it is piped to the Rodeo Refinery in Northern California for further processing.