Exxon Mobil's Las Flores Facility, as seen during 2016's Sherpa Fire
Paul Wellman (file)

Attitudes toward oil drilling in Santa Barbara County have grown increasingly hostile since the Refugio Oil Spill in 2015, but that does not appear to scare away two of the nation’s largest petroleum companies.

ExxonMobil continues to work on a plan to haul crude oil by truck out of Las Flores Canyon Facility every day. The facility has been effectively shut down since Plains All American’s pipeline ruptured more than two years ago.

Three months ago, Plains submitted an application to rebuild its infamous Line 901. County planning staffers will meet with representatives from San Luis Obispo County, U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management to review Plains’ application. If approved, completion would take at least four years.

But Exxon hopes to restart its three offshore platforms sooner. The company applied to transport about 70 truckloads from its Las Flores Facility, located 15 miles west of the City of Santa Barbara, to pump stations in Santa Maria or Kern County. In total, they would be carrying up to 12,000 barrels of crude oil daily, about a third of Exxon’s prior daily production.

The company is expected to submit an updated application next month, according to county planning director Glenn Russell, after county planners denied the oil company’s original application two weeks ago. Exxon needs to add traffic analysis, air quality analysis, a qualitative risk study, and information for permits to modify the existing facility, according to Russell. Two years ago, the planning department denied a similar emergency application from Exxon.

In the meantime, Plains has written nine checks to the County of Santa Barbara for claims amounting to nearly $2 million. In addition, the county submitted a claim recently for $1.3 million for lost property tax revenue.

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, meanwhile, announced the criminal case against Plains would go to trial on January 28, 2018. The four felony and 42 felony misdemeanor charges include violating the Clean Water Act, dumping a hazardous substance into water, and making a false or misleading oil spill report.

Gwendolyn Wu contributed to this report.


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