Santa Barbara Votes to Oppose Phillips 66 Oil Trains

Helene Schneider Gregg Hart

Via the Santa Barbara IndependentThe Santa Barbara City Council voted 5-2 to write a letter urging that San Luis Obispo reject an application by Phillips 66 to expand the railroad spur at its Nipomo refinery, thus creating the space necessary for a 1.4-mile-long train — carrying up to 80 cars of oil — to use the facility as a destination. Mayor Helene Schneider and Councilmember Gregg Hart put the item before the council, arguing the risk posed by the five oil trains expected per week was unacceptable.

The Santa Barbara City Council voted 5-2 to write a letter urging that San Luis Obispo reject an application by Phillips 66 to expand the railroad spur at its Nipomo refinery, thus creating the space necessary for a 1.4-mile-long train — carrying up to 80 cars of oil — to use the facility as a destination. Mayor Helene Schneider and Councilmember Gregg Hart put the item before the council, arguing the risk posed by the five oil trains expected per week was unacceptable.

Critics of the proposed oil train packed the council chambers, recounting the horrors that happened in North Dakota, West Virginia, and Quebec, when similarly laden trains jumped the tracks there. Displaying a map showing the “blast zone” along both sides of the railroad tracks, speaker after speaker itemized the defining structures and urban landmarks that could be affected: 16 schools, one fire station, Chase Palm Park, Stearns Wharf, City Hall, and the Funk Zone. Linda Krop, attorney for the Environmental Defense Center, noted that even the city’s Municipal Golf Course — the subject of intense council debate earlier in the day — was at risk. “That’s the last straw,” Krop said, precipitating an outburst of laughter.

Opposing the anti-oil train letter were councilmembers Frank Hotchkiss and Dale Francisco. “I wish you didn’t have the great fear that you do,” said Hotchkiss to those assembled, “but you do.” Francisco argued that the train cars carrying oil to Phillips 66 had all been manufactured since 2012, adhering to stricter safety regulations than those imposed by the federal Department of Transportation.

In drafting a letter, Santa Barbara joins a list of 40 cities and other governmental entities along the coast in opposing the oil train rail spur, including Goleta, Carpinteria, Ventura County, and the City of San Luis Obispo. The matter is next scheduled to be heard by the SLO Planning Commission.

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