Joining more than 40 government entities north and south, the Santa Barbara County Supervisors voted to oppose the Phillips 66 application to allow trains to transport crude oil up and down the state to a refinery in San Luis Obispo County. The project’s future is still up in the air, but the matter could go before the S.L.O. Planning Commission as early as late fall. To date, the department has received more than 20,000 public comments on the matter.
Where proponents argue oil and other unknown chemicals already travel by rail, opponents contend the crude in question is more flammable and explosive and would be unnecessarily risky. Plus, opponents point out the trains would carry out-of-area oil, which could potentially displace locally produced oil now being treated in Nipomo.
Specifically, the project would enable Phillips to unload up to five trains — each 1.4 miles long, carrying about 50,000 barrels of crude oil — per week, or an estimated 250 trains per year, at a Nipomo refinery. Each train would take an estimated 10-12 hours to unload. Trains could enter the state from Oregon, Nevada, or Arizona and would travel up from Los Angeles.
Supervisor Salud Carbajal ran through the list of places in the area that fall into the so-called “blast zone” — communities within one mile of the train — such as Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Montecito, among others. There was a record high of 141 oil train “spill release incidents” in 2014, he added. Carbajal and Farr brought the item to the board after each previously drafted their own letter.
Supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino dissented. “I don’t understand that people aren’t concerned [about] gasoline trucks,” Lavagnino said. “I’m not really sure how else to get the oil where it needs to be … as long as we continue to use it.”