A judge recently upheld a 3-2 decision by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to ban Exxon Mobil from trucking oil to processing plants while a ruptured pipeline undergoes repairs.
The ruling comes at a time when oil hovers around $100 per barrel and truck diesel prices at the pump stood over $4.50 per gallon nationally and more than $6 in California. Exxon sustained a pipe break in 2015, causing an environmentally disastrous spill along the Gaviota coastline. With repair plans in the works, Exxon sought a permit to restore production at three dormant wells. The Golden State oil industry reportedly supports approximately 365,000 workers and generates $150 billion in annual revenue.
“We disagree with the decision, which disregards our employees, contractors and countless others working in California’s oil and gas industry who depend on these jobs to support their families,” according to an Exxon statement. “Exxon Mobil has met all of the requirements for issuance of the permit, which has gone through extensive environmental review and public comment.”
The oil corporation’s proposal involved using upwards of 24,820 tanker truckloads annually to haul crude oil on the 101 Freeway and Highway 166. This would occur over a 7-year period while the pipeline was being fixed. Reportedly driven by fears from a 2020 4,500-gallon spill on Highway 166 and an offshore pipeline breach that dumped 25,000 gallons near Huntington Beach, the County Board denied the application. Environmental groups took a victory lap after the board slammed the brakes.
“Exxon’s trucking proposal was a step in the wrong direction on climate and put Californians and our coastal resources in harm’s way from spills, crashes, pollution and fires,” according to an Environmental Affairs Board at UC Santa Barbara statement.
Seeking to overturn the board’s decision as a “prejudicial abuse of discretion” and a “de facto ban on crude oil production and transportation,” Exxon received similar treatment in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Judge Dolly Gee declined to reverse the board’s decision, leaving the wells silent and effectively eliminating jobs on the oil rigs, refineries, and driving truck at a time when high diesel prices are partially responsible for rising inflation.
When Exxon shuttered its offshore production, the three Santa Barbara platforms produced upwards of 30,000 barrels of crude per day. California alone was using 1.7 million barrels daily at the time. Oil consumption has increased.