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Nipomo refinery project could lead to new public access to Dunes

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

Phillips 66 is planning to extend a rail spur line at its oil refinery on the Nipomo Mesa that will improve the refinery’s ability to process rail-delivered crude oil.

The county and the California Coastal Commission are also considering whether the refinery should provide public access to Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area across its property. Both projects will be the subject of an environmental impact report.

County planners will hold a meeting to get input on what issues should be considered in the report from 6 to 8 p.m., July 29, at the Blacklake Golf Resort banquet room, 1490 Golf Course Lane, Nipomo. The public has until Aug. 9 to suggest topics to be covered in the EIR.

The rail spur extension would consist of 1.3 miles of new rail as well as an aboveground pipeline and emergency access road. The spur will also include as many as five parallel tracks, each long enough to accommodate a train of some 80 tank cars and locomotives.

“The extension is intended to allow the Santa Maria Refinery to access a wider range of competitively priced crude oil,” wrote Murry Wilson, project manager with the county planning department.

The spur extension will disturb about 50 acres of land, half within the existing refinery and half in adjacent open space. The report also covers a proposal to provide a public access route from Highway 1 to Oceano Dunes.

“The size and alignment of the coastal accessway, as well as the appropriateness of access at this location based on the environmental setting, public safety concerns and current land uses in the area, are currently under consideration by the California Coastal Commission,” Wilson said.

The refinery has been operating since 1955 and currently processes very heavy crude oil. The facility removes sulfur and other impurities before the oil is transported to other refineries for further processing.

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