County to consider stance on refinery rail extension

County to consider stance on refinery rail extension

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will consider taking a stance of opposition Tuesday on a proposed rail spur extension at the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery on the Nipomo Mesa. 

The plan would extend an existing rail spur at the plant, located five miles north of Guadalupe, so that the plant could accept trains carrying crude oil. Currently, all of the crude oil coming into the facility travels through pipelines from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.

The board will consider staff's recommendation to send a letter to the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission, urging members to deny the Phillips 66 Co.'s application for the rail spur extension project.

According to a staff report, approval of the project would present health risks to Santa Barbara County residents and the environment, as it would result in five additional oil trains per week traveling through the county's coastal rail line. The report also says that the risks of transporting crude oils include explosion, derailment, air pollution, toxic emissions, fires and spills. 

Phillips 66 has submitted an application to increase the permitted levels of crude oil processing at the refinery facility to up to 48,950 barrels per day, which would be an increase of more than 10 percent of the currently permitted levels. 

So far 20,000 public comments have been made on the Environmental Impact Report for the project, and 40 of those comments have come from cities and local governmental entities. Many local governments such as Ventura County, the cities of Moorpark, Oxnard, Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Goleta and San Luis Obispo have formally voted to oppose the project. 

However, 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said that he wasn't sure it was the board's responsibility to tell another county what to do.

"We have enough things on our plate that we have jurisdiction over without going to other counties," Lavagnino said. "I don't think I've ever seen another county send us a letter telling us how to vote."

The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors have yet to set dates to consider the proposed project. 

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the County Administration Building in Santa Barbara. The meeting also can be viewed online at countyofsb.org

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