SANTA BARBARA, CA — Dozens of concerned Santa Barbara County residents gathered at noon today on the steps of the county courthouse to urge officials to reject Exxon’s application to transport nearly a million gallons of crude oil per day by tanker truck out of Santa Barbara County. (Pictures from the demonstration can be found here.) Exxon filed a permit application last week, claiming emergency status because the shutdown of the damaged pipeline that caused the May 19 Refugio Beach oil spill leaves the oil giant unable to transport the oil it continues to pump from its offshore rigs.
“Rather than looking for increasingly unsafe ways to transport oil to protect industry profits, Santa Barbara County officials should be looking to move Santa Barbara off oil to protect Santa Barbara residents from future disasters,” said Rebecca Claassen, Santa Barbara County organizer at Food & Water Watch. “By continuing to pump oil it has no way to transport, Exxon further endangers Santa Barbarans and our coastline. In addition to rejecting the truck permit, the county should pressure federal regulators to shut down all offshore rigs that feed into the Plains All American Pipeline.”
The demonstration came after Food & Water Watch and Center for Biological Diversity notified Santa Barbara County officials in a letter today that the County is legally required to reject Exxon’s dangerous new plan to use 192 oil truck trips a day to carry oil previously transported by the ruptured pipeline that caused the Santa Barbara oil spill. The groups warned the County that they are likely to take legal action if it grants Exxon’s permit. “These ultra-hazardous trucks do not belong in California’s coastal environment — they are inherently dangerous, and carry significant risk of accidents, fiery explosions, injuries, deaths and environmental destruction,” the letter states.
Tanker trucks spill hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil per year, according to a 2009 American Petroleum Institute report. These oil spills can cause fires and explosions. An Associated Press study of six states where truck traffic has increased because of increased oil and gas drilling found that fatalities in traffic accidents have more than quadrupled since 2004 in some counties.
“On May 19,” said Claassen, “we witnessed a disastrous spill from a pipeline that transports Exxon’s oil. Pipelines are considered to be the ‘safest’ way to conduct the inherently dangerous transport of oil. Now Exxon is audacious enough to expect Santa Barbara County to grant it permission to transport its dirty fuel in the most dangerous way – by truck. There is no safe way to transport oil, and the County must not expose Santa Barbarans to this elevated risk.”