San Luis Obispo’s Board of Supervisors deny a request to build oil-receiving terminal

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San Luis Obispo’s Board of Supervisors has denied a request to build an oil-receiving terminal in its county, which would have allowed for the transportation of crude oil by train through Berkeley.

Oil company Phillips 66 was working to build an oil train terminal at their Santa Maria refinery in San Luis Obispo County in order to import tar sands from Canada, said spokesperson for the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter Virginia Reinhart in an email. In the past, oil trains have been involved in fires, explosions and spills, such as in Quebec and Colorado.

The oil trains terminal would have permitted more than 7 million gallons of crude oil to be transported to the Phillips 66 refinery each week, according to a joint press release issued by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. On their way to the Central Coast refinery, the trains would have passed through the rail line in Berkeley by 4th Street.

Reinhart said in her email that with a 40-fold increase in the supply of oil being shipped by rail since 2008, derailments and spills have increased significantly.

“We do not feel that we should be exposed to all of these dangers,” said Vice Mayor of Berkeley Linda Maio. “We could not permit (the project) to happen without a fight and that’s what we did, we fought.”

Maio had been raising funds, organizing community members and Berkeley City Council for more than three years in opposition to the project, according to a press release.

The Sierra Club and other advocacy groups helped to ensure the project’s environmental impacts were sufficiently analyzed, according to Reinhart. Each oil train emits the equivalent particulate matter of 4,500 diesel automobiles, meaning that the project would pollute as much as 2 million cars per year, Reinhart said in the email.

Justin Jacobs, spokesperson for Union Pacific, the railroad whose tracks would have been used to transport the oil, said in an email that his company provides safe and efficient transportation for products “that power the country.” Jacobs added that safety is the primary focus for every product Union Pacific transports.

“Railroads provide the infrastructure, flexible networks, and efficiency needed to move crude oil from locations where oil is recovered to destinations where it is most highly valued,” Jacobs said in an email.

Adam Hill, county supervisor for the 3rd District San Luis Obispo, said Berkeley was among many cities statewide that worried about the project, which he said “wasn’t worth the risk.” Hill added the project was unique in that it was the first time in nine years that San Luis Obispo’s Board of Supervisors heard from other cities and jurisdictions about a project in their county.

Ryan Hostetter, supervising planner of San Luis Obispo County, said although the board denied the application, there is an appeal period once the paperwork is sent. The Coastal Commission will oversee the appeal process.

“It’s not necessarily over,” Hostetter said.


Contact Ahna Straube at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @akstraube.