For immediate release: February 16, 2024
ExxonMobil Drops Court Bid to Truck Oil in Santa Barbara
LOS ANGELES— ExxonMobil’s dangerous proposal to truck massive amounts of oil
along California highways is dead after the company dropped its lawsuit challenging
Santa Barbara County’s denial of the plan.
Exxon’s plan would have helped the company restart three drilling platforms off the
Santa Barbara coast. The platforms, built in the 1980s, have been shut down since the
disastrous 2015 Refugio oil spill that leaked more than 140,000 gallons of heavy crude
on the Gaviota Coast and into the ocean. Exxon notified the U.S. District Court for the
Central District of California late Thursday that the company is dismissing its lawsuit.
The Environmental Defense Center and the Center for Biological Diversity successfully
intervened in the lawsuit in 2022 on behalf of several environmental and Indigenous
groups opposed to the trucking plan and the company’s intent to restart its platforms.
“ExxonMobil’s plan to restart its offshore platforms and truck millions of gallons per week
through Santa Barbara County was reckless, dangerous, and totally unwelcome by this
community,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, which
represents Get Oil Out!, Santa Barbara County Action Network, Surfrider Foundation, and
Sierra Club. “Recent oil tanker truck accidents and offshore oil spills show just how
dangerous this plan was. Our research revealed that there have been eight serious
accidents involving tanker trucks along the proposed route in the last several years,
resulting in deaths, oil spills, injuries, fires, and road closures.
The county’s denial was based on the project’s significant and unavoidable harms to
biological, water and cultural resources in the event of a spill, as well as threats to public
“Santa Barbara hosts some of the most spectacular coastlines and natural coastal
resources in our country. This dismissal affirms the action of the Santa Barbara County
Board of Supervisors, protecting the area from the additional risks of oil spills, traffic
accidents, as well as air and water pollution from ExxonMobil’s dangerous project to
transport crude oil through this sensitive region,” states Angela Howe, Surfrider
Foundation Senior Legal Director.
The court upheld the county’s rejection of the plan in a September 2023 decision but
had not ruled on all the claims brought in the case. Exxon’s dismissal will terminate the
lawsuit entirely. The company’s abandonment of its remaining claims coincides with its
sale of its Santa Ynez Unit assets to Sable Offshore Corp.
“The dismissal of this case puts an end, once and for all, to this ill-conceived
proposal. Each tanker truck and its full load of oil would have been a ticking time bomb,
threatening the lives of those on the highways and our environment. An oil spill
catastrophe has been prevented,” said Michael Lyons, Board President of Get Oil Out!.
ExxonMobil’s proposal would have allowed the company to truck vast quantities of oil
on coastal Highway 101 and Route 166. The plan to haul millions of gallons of oil per
week through Santa Barbara County would have been a step towards restarting the
company’s offshore platforms and resuming operations at its Las Flores Canyon
processing facility, which when operational was the largest emitter of greenhouse gases
in the county.
“It’s welcome news that Exxon’s dangerous trucking scheme is done with, but the fight
to keep California’s coast safe from oil spills is far from over,” said Julie Teel Simmonds,
a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “All oil companies should take
note that California’s coastal communities don’t want oil drilling and transport that puts
people and wildlife at risk. We’ll work hard to make sure no company has an opportunity
to cause California’s next catastrophic oil spill or accident.”
“Exxon has long been one of the most heinous polluters of Chumash homelands,” said
Mati Waiya, executive director of the Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation. “We celebrate this
massive victory against Exxon and warn any and all future resource extractors that we
will not stop fighting.”
“From corroded pipelines to tanker trucks to attempting to finance a sale of this troubled
project to Sable to avoid direct liability, Exxon will stop at nothing to endanger the
Santa Barbara coastline. The whole aging oil operation should be withdrawn along with
the lawsuit,” said Sierra Club Santa Barbara-Ventura Chapter Director Jonathan Ullman.
California suffers hundreds of oil-truck incidents a year, and many result in oil spills.
There were 258 trucking accidents along the planned route from 2015 to 2021; since
2007 eight oil tanker truck accidents have occurred that resulted in six deaths, multiple
injuries, fires, road closures, and oil spills. In 2020 Santa Barbara County planning staff
recommended a prohibition on oil tanker trucks on Route 166 after a major accident
spilled more than 4,500 gallons into the Cuyama River.
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