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Litigation to Defend Denial of Exxon Oil Trucking Plan

02 • 15 • 2024

Litigation to Defend Denial of Exxon Oil Trucking Plan

Surfrider helped to uphold the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors denial of the oil trucking plan from March 2022

The Surfrider Foundation is celebrating a major victory over Exxon’s dangerous oil trucking plan proposing to carry crude oil in Santa Barbara from three offshore rigs through coastal communities via tanker trucks moving millions of gallons of oil per week. Exxon notified the United States District Court for the Central District of California on February 15, 2024, of its intent to dismiss the case against the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. Click here for a blog with all of the details.
In the wake of the 2015 Plains All American pipeline oil spill at Refugio State Beach, ExxonMobil needed an alternate route to distribute oil from offshore rigs.  ExxonMobil submitted an alternate plan to ship oil from their offshore oil platforms that included trucking the oil throughout Santa Barbara County along winding and windy California highways comes with a host of other risks, including car accidents, fires, and explosions. The spills from accidents could put thousands of gallons of crude oil onto roads, vegetation, and waterways. An oil spill from trucking would contaminate habitat, harm wildlife, and pollute river and ocean waters. Moreover, the most common threats to endangered and threatened species are vehicle collisions, oil spills, and climate change impacts.  In light of the risks and impacts to natural resources, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors denied the oil trucking plan in March 2022.
ExxonMobil Corporation promptly sued to challenge the Board of Superviors' denial decision in federal court. Surfrider Foundation joined forces with Environmental Defense Center, Sierra Club, Get Oil Out!, and Santa Barbara County Action Network to enter the litigation defending the decision in court and prevent the restart of offshore oil drilling. Exxon’s court filing argued that the Board’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence, and thus the Board abused its discretion in denying the plan.  However, the Board’s rationale cited the risks to public safety and environmental resources due to significant collision rates on the proposed route.  The Environmental Non-profits pointed out that the proposed mitigation measures are insufficient because they could not address the external factors such as reckless driving, road conditions or unexpected hazards that could lead to an accidental spill of crude oil from a truck collision that has the potential to impact sensitive biological, coastal and water resources. On September 27, 2023, United States District Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled in favor of the County of Santa Barbara and Environmental Non-profits, affirming the County Board of Supervisor’s denial of Exxon Mobil Corporation’s oil trucking plan, but the litigation continued.
Offshore drilling is fundamentally at odds with our coastal economy and way of life. Santa Barbara County has one of the most spectacular coastal areas in the nation and suffered one of the worst oil spills in history in 1969. Californians and people from all over the world come here to fish, hike, kayak, surf, wine and dine, and enjoy Santa Barbara beaches. The coastal environment supports over 16,000 jobs and contributes $825 million to Santa Barbara County’s economy annually through tourism, ocean-based recreation, and fishing, alone. This vibrant coastal economy is reliant upon clean beaches and healthy, diverse, marine ecosystems.