This has been a big week for big business deals. Among the biggest of all, ExxonMobil announced it was selling its entire Santa Ynez Unit to a Canadian-based energy company, Sable Offshore Corporation. That company is a consortium of seven companies, of which ExxonMobil is the largest with a 50 percent share.
The Santa Ynez Unit dates back to the 1970s when Exxon began construction on the first of three offshore oil platforms in federal waters off the coast of Gaviota. Involved in this sale are the three platforms — Heritage, Harmony, and Hondo — 114 wells, the onshore oil and gas processing plant at Las Flores Canyon, and 100 percent of the shares of the Pacific Offshore Pipeline Company and Pacific Pipeline Company. The terms of the sale are confidential.
“The sale advances ExxonMobil’s focused investment strategy and highlights our willingness to divest assets to those who can derive greater value,” said company spokesperson Meaghan Macdonald in an e-mail exchange. Macdonald said the sale is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023 pending regulatory approvals.
County energy planners had just heard of the sale, had not had time to digest its implications, and were not prepared to comment. Likewise for Linda Krop, senior attorney for the Environmental Defense Center, who has crossed swords multiple times with ExxoMobil over the past 30 years.
The sale comes at a time when ExxonMobil is suing the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors for denying its application to truck oil produced from the three offshore platforms and haul it to a processing plant in Kern County. That decision effectively keeps ExxonMobil indefinitely shut in and shut down since the 2015 rupture of the Plains All American Pipeline by Refugio. In the wake of that rupture and attendant spill, federal pipeline safety officials shut down two key stretches of the Plains All American pipeline, effectively shutting down ExxonMobil and all other oil producers off the Gaviota Coast. In recent months, the Board of Supervisors rejected ExxonMobil’s appeal to truck its oil instead by a 3-2 vote. ExxonMobil made good its threat to sue the county and then purchased the two stretches of pipeline needed to get its oil to market.
Most recently, federal courts granted standing to the many environmental organizations represented by the Environmental Defense Center in their campaign to persuade the supervisors to deny ExxonMobil’s trucking application. While perhaps procedurally arcane, this ruling gives EDC and Krop a seat at the courtroom table in the ensuing legal battles. As an intervenor, Krop and the EDC will be allowed to file motions, argue their case in front of the judge, and perhaps most critically participate in any settlement talks that might occur. Legally speaking, that’s huge, especially if a future Board of Supervisors were to get cold feet about a protracted legal showdown with ExxonMobil.
Hotel and Resort Change Ups
In other business news, the ritzy Bacara resort along the coast of Goleta announced it has sold, the second time thus far this year, for half-a-billion dollars. And the protracted showdown between Ty Warner and Four Seasons, which manages his Biltmore Hotel, shows signs of a potential settlement.
Warner and the Four Seasons have been feuding for several years now over terms and conditions of their relationship, with the result being that the Biltmore has remained dark and shut down at a time — post COVID — when all hotels and motels have been making money hand over fist. As a result, Biltmore workers have been without their jobs, promoting the filing of a class action lawsuit on their behalf. Based on reports in other news outlets, the dispute between Warner — who made his billions selling Beanie Babies — and the Four Seasons will now go to a panel of arbitrators for settlement.