Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 20, 2016

Contact: Kristen Monsell, (510) 844-7137,  

Exxon Seeks Emergency Permit to Truck Millions of Gallons of Oil After Southern California Spill

Santa Barbara Urged to Reject Dangerous Permit

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.— The window is closing for public input on Exxon’s request for an emergency permit to use oil trucks to transport more than 17 million gallons of crude though Southern California’s coastal communities and on busy highways. The Center for Biological Diversity today urged Santa Barbara County to reject this dangerous proposal because there is no imminent emergency and it needs careful scrutiny and precaution. If granted the emergency procedures could allow Exxon to evade otherwise required review, including the California Environmental Quality Act.

In a letter to county officials, the Center explained that Exxon’s request to use up to 30 truck trips a day to carry oil previously transported by the ruptured pipeline that caused the Refugio oil spill is inherently dangerous and does not meet the legal test for an emergency. Last year’s spill killed hundreds of sea birds and marine mammals.

“Trucking millions of gallons of crude oil down winding coastal highways would put Santa Barbara at risk of another disaster,” said Kristen Monsell, a Center attorney. “The significant danger of accidents, spills and environmental harm should mean more scrutiny and public input, not less.”

Exxon applied in early January for an emergency permit from the county to begin sending tanker trucks loaded with more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil each day over a 140-mile route that includes Highway 101. The proposed route goes through densely populated communities and some of the most beautiful coastal areas in the world. Truck loading and transportation would occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week for up to six months.

In its application Exxon claims it needs to truck oil so it can “de-inventory” crude oil currently being kept in two storage tanks in Las Flores Canyon because the Plains All American Pipeline that caused the recent oil spill is still shut down. Today’s letter argues that an emergency permit should be denied and a full public process and consideration of alternatives to trucking oil should be considered.    

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.

“Exxon’s request is yet another example of why dirty oil transportation and development doesn’t belong in California’s fragile coastal environment,” Monsell said.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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