Environment

ExxonMobil wants to reopen offshore oil platforms off the Central Coast

A line of off-shore oil rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel near the Federal Ecological Preserve en route to the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in March 2015. The Trump administration proposed to open for exploration the largest expanse of the nation's offshore oil and natural gas reserves ever offered to global energy companies. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
A line of off-shore oil rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel near the Federal Ecological Preserve en route to the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in March 2015. The Trump administration proposed to open for exploration the largest expanse of the nation's offshore oil and natural gas reserves ever offered to global energy companies. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

ExxonMobil has plans to resume offshore oil and gas production on three platforms off the coast of Santa Barbara County and transport the crude on Central Coast roads in up to 70 trucks a day.

If approved, the project would bring a boost in supply to the Phillips 66 refinery in Nipomo and more oil rigs to Highway 101 in Santa Barbara County and possibly to Highway 166 in south San Luis Obispo and Kern counties.

The company shut down its offshore platforms and onshore Las Flores Canyon facility west of Goleta in 2015 after the onshore Plains All American Pipeline ruptured and spilled 142,800 gallons off Refugio State Beach.

Operations stopped because the company had no way to transport the crude to markets.

Plains All American Pipeline has applied to replace the transmission line. In the meantime, ExxonMobil applied for permits from Santa Barbara County to resume oil production and move the crude with trucks.

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A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday in preparation of a supplement to an environmental impact report.

The meeting will be held in the Planning Commission hearing room in the Engineering Building, 123 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara. Those unable to attend can submit comments to Kathryn Lehr at 805-568-3560 or by email at klehr@co.santa-barbara.ca.us.

ExxonMobil continues to have leases for the Hondo, Harmony and Heritage platforms that the company says have significant remaining reserves.

The company, in its application, says the project will provide oil and gas, jobs, and tax revenue to the Central Coast. While opponents, who have planned a rally before the public hearing, say trucks full of highly flammable crude would pose an unacceptable threat.

"Until a pipeline option becomes available, temporary trucking would support local jobs and the economy. The Santa Ynez Valley school district, local emergency services, infrastructure and other public services benefit from oil and gas tax revenues," said Julie King, a media relations advisor for ExxonMobil.

Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity said it's not worth the risk.

"It’s unfair for county residents to shoulder this risk just so ExxonMobil can bring its decrepit drilling platforms back online," Monsell said.

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If approved, trucks would move oil seven days a week and 24 hours a day from the Las Flores Canyon facility to one or two off-site locations: The Phillips 66 Santa Maria Terminal in Santa Barbara County — where oil would be piped to the refinery in Nipomo — or the Plains Pentland Terminal in Kern County.

truck routes.JPG
Oil trucks would move crude from the Las Flores Canyon facility west of Goleta on Highway 101 to the Santa Maria Terminal in Santa Barbara County or on to Highway 166 to the Plains Pentland Terminal in Kern County. Submitted to Santa Barbara County by Associated Transportation Engineers

Trucks traveling to the Santa Maria Terminal would travel on Highway 101 from the Refugio Road entrance to Betteravia Road, to Rosemary Road to Battles Road.

Those traveling to Kern County would travel from Highway 101 from the Refugio Road entrance to Highway 166 to Basic School Road.

The proposal will be brought to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for a decision in about a year.

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Clarification and Update: This story has been updated to clarify that the Plains All American Pipeline company applied to restore the transmission pipeline, and to include a statement from a representative of ExxonMobil.

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