County hearing on Phillips 66 rail plan set for February

The Phillips 66 refinery on the Nipomo Mesa.
The Phillips 66 refinery on the Nipomo Mesa. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Nearly 18 months after Phillips 66 proposed building a rail spur to bring crude oil by train to its refinery on the Nipomo Mesa, the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission has set the date for a hearing on the development plan and its environmental impacts.

The project has generated a massive amount of public debate statewide, so the commission has set aside two days — Feb. 4 and 5 —for the hearing and made special plans to accommodate what is expected to be a large crowd.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., but speakers must sign up to address the commission with registration beginning at 8 a.m. The hearing will be at the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors chambers at the County Government Center in San Luis Obispo. Overflow rooms with live streaming of the hearing have been reserved both at the county center and at the nearby San Luis Obispo County Library Community Room.

The commission will consider a development plan and coastal development permit for the Phillips 66 project that includes building a 1.3-mile spur from the main rail line with five parallel tracks, an unloading facility at the refinery and on-site pipelines. A maximum of 250 trains a year would deliver crude to the refinery. Each train would have three locomotives, two buffer cars and 80 railcars carrying a total of about 2.2 million gallons of crude oil, according to county planners.

The commission is also expected to consider the final environmental impact report for the project.

The project has garnered statewide attention, with hundreds of public agencies, elected officials and individuals sending letters or resolutions to the county, opposing the plan because of the potential for a catastrophic train derailment. Proponents have pointed to the Phillips 66 safety record and the well-paying jobs it provides.

The final environmental impact report can be downloaded at www.sloplanning.org or viewed at the San Luis Obispo County Library, the Arroyo Grande branch library, Cal Poly library, Cuesta College library and the Paso Robles library.

A county staff report will be issued one to two weeks before the hearing and can be found at www.sloplanning.org. For more information, contact county project manager Ryan Hostetter at rhostetter@co.slo.ca.us or call 805-781-5600.