Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 8, 2015

Contact: Kristen Monsell, (510) 844-7100 x337,  

Santa Barbara Urged to Reject Exxon's Massive Oil-truck Plan

Proposal to Replace Ruptured Pipeline Risks Another Oil Spill, Groups Say

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.— Santa Barbara County is legally required to reject Exxon’s dangerous new plan to use a massive fleet of oil trucks to transport a million gallons of crude a day though coastal communities, the Center for Biological Diversity and Food & Water Watch warned today.

In a letter to county officials, the groups explained they’ll likely take legal action if Exxon is allowed to use 192 oil truck trips a day to carry oil previously transported by the ruptured pipeline that caused the Santa Barbara oil spill. “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.

“Trucking a million gallons of crude oil a day down winding coastal highways is a recipe for another disaster,” said Kristen Monsell, a Center attorney. “A ruptured pipeline just devastated Santa Barbara’s beautiful coast. An oil truck accident would add to this damage and could kill people. That’s why county officials must reject this outrageously dangerous plan.”

Exxon applied last week for an emergency permit to begin sending tanker trucks loaded with more than 1 million gallons of crude oil a day over a 71-mile route that includes portions of both Highway 1 and Highway 101. The proposed route goes through densely populated communities and some of the most beautiful coastal areas in the world.

“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.”

Today’s letter points out that Exxon’s application does not meet the legal test for emergency. “Exxon is not providing an essential public service and therefore does not qualify for an emergency permit,” the letter notes.

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. 

California suffers hundreds of oil truck incidents a year, and many result in oil spills. One oil truck accident in 2000, for example, killed the driver and spilled nearly 7,000 gallons of oil, a substantial portion of which entered a river and spread to the ocean.

Oil spills near the Santa Barbara Channel threaten a wide range of federally protected endangered species, including blue whales, sea otters and leatherback sea turtles. Spilled oil persists in the environment for years and can continue harming wildlife long after cleanup teams have finished their work.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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