San Luis Obispo Planning Commission Denies Phillips 66’s Oil Trains Project
October 5, 2016
If built, the Phillips 66 oil trains terminal would allow more than 7 million gallons of crude oil to be shipped via rail to its local refinery each week.
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission today voted to reject Phillips 66’s proposed oil train facility in Nipomo.The decision comes after a nearly three-year review process, with more than 20,000 Californians opposing the project, and more than 45 cities, counties, and school boards sending letters urging the planning commission to deny it.
This decision comes on the heels of the Benicia City Council’s rejection Tuesday night of a similar project proposed for Valero’s Benicia refinery. The Benicia denial came only hours after the federal Surface Transportation Board issued an order upholding the city’s authority to deny Valero’s project. The Board’s ruling rejecting the claim that local governments are preempted by federal law and lack the authority to deny hazardous projects slated for their communities also applies to San Luis Obispo County, where Phillips 66 has made similar arguments.
If built, the Phillips 66 oil trains terminal would allow more than 7 million gallons of crude oil to be shipped via rail to its local refinery each week. The project would make it possible for Phillips 66 to refine volatile and carbon-intensive tar sands crude from Canada and elsewhere in the United States. Tar sands crude,
when prepared for transport, is thinned with an unstable blend of chemicals have been known to explode in derailment incidents, which have become increasingly frequent in recent years.
As evidenced by the 10 oil train explosions in the United States over the past two years, and the tragic explosion that killed 47 in Lac-Mégantic, Canada, similar trains in California would place communities’ health, safety, and environment at serious risk. Trains servicing the Phillips 66 project would have traveled from the north and south through hundreds of major California cities and smaller communities, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Davis, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Jose. These trains also would have jeopardized numerous ecologically sensitive areas including the San Francisco Bay and California’s iconic central coast.
Public interest groups released the following statements:
“The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission listened to the people of this community, who overwhelmingly oppose this oil trains project. Our community is ready to move beyond dangerous oil projects and towards a clean energy economy that works for all of us. Should this project be appealed, we expect the Board of Supervisors to follow the Planning Commission’s lead and reject this project once and for all.” – Heidi Harmon, SLO Stop Oil Trains Campaign
“Today is a milestone in our struggle to defeat the Phillips 66 oil train terminal project. The majority of Planning Commissioners, paying heed both to the recommendations of their Staff as well as the thousands of SLO County citizens who oppose the project, voted to deny it. The fact that the Boards of Supervisors of every coastal county between San Francisco and Los Angeles was also opposed to the project played an important role as well. The County Board of Supervisors will next consider and vote on the project which turns the focus on the North County District One race between candidates Steve Martin and John Peschong.” – Charles Varni, SLO County Surfrider
“Today’s vote is a great victory for the people of San Luis Obispo and California, as well as for the planet. This victory demonstrates the people power of communities all around the state who organized and participated in the public process to defeat this ill-conceived and dangerous project. Kudos also to the local residents who refused to be intimidated by a huge and politically powerful corporation that wanted to put profits before community safety.” – Andres Soto, Communities for a Better Environment
“The people of California owe eternal thanks to the San Luis Obispo Department of Planning and the County Planning Commission. If Phillips 66 chooses to appeal this decision, millions will be watching the board of supervisors to see if they will choose to uphold state environmental law and the county’s general plan, or disregard the judgment of their own commissioners, the advice of county planners and the overwhelming will of the people.” – Ethan Buckner, Extreme Oil Campaigner, Stand.earth
“The planning commission’s decision is a huge victory for the people of San Luis Obispo and all across California. We can all breathe a huge sigh of relief that, at least for now, Phillips 66 will not be allowed to put our communities, water, and wildlife at risk from oil train explosions and fires and toxic air pollution. We applaud the planning commission for standing up to the oil industry and putting the health and safety of their constituents first.” – Valerie Love, Clean Energy Campaigner, Center for Biological Diversity
“This project, wisely rejected by county authorities, is another example of how Big Oil wants the American people to shoulder the risk for crude oil transport — whether an exploding train or a leaking pipeline — while the dirty polluters rake in the profits. Ultimately, the best way to safeguard our air and water, our communities, and our families is to speed up the transition to clean energy prosperity and keep dirty, dangerous fuels like tar sands crude in the ground.” – Andrew Christie, Chapter Director, Sierra Club Santa Lucia Chapter
“The Planning Commission deserves credit for listening to all the evidence, the powerful denial recommendation from their staff and the outpouring of community opposition and for denying this dangerous project,” said Linda Krop, Chief Counsel for the Environmental Defense Center. “This was the right decision and the only possible decision if the goal is to keep our communities and environment safe.” – Linda Krop, Chief Counsel, Environmental Defense Center