Phillips 66 Drops Controversial California Oil Train Expansion Plan

oil train derailment Oregon Photo courtesy ODOT 347x210 Phillips 66 Drops Controversial California Oil Train Expansion PlanPhillips 66 has agreed to drop its lawsuit challenging the California county of San Louis Obispo’s denial of a proposed oil train terminal the energy corporation wanted to build in the coastal town of Nipomo.

Phillips 66 started pushing its Rail Spur Project in 2013, hoping to build the terminal in Nipomo that would have required oil trains to haul more than 7 million gallons of crude oil per week through California. Much of the oil train’s haul would have included tar sands crude, a highly viscous form of oil that oil companies treat with a multitude of toxic chemicals to thin it for transport.

Tar sands oil is highly explosive and is notoriously difficult to remove from the environment when spilled. Remediation for tar sands oil can take several years to just partially complete.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the environmental groups that helped the county to defeat the proposed terminal, oil trains traveling to the proposed oil train terminal would have traveled through hundreds of California cities, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Davis, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Jose. The oil train plan also threatened ecologically sensitive areas, including San Francisco Bay and California’s central coast.

After Phillips 66 proposed the terminal, more than 20,000 Californians voiced their opposition to it during the three-year review process. More than 45 cities, counties, and school boards also urged San Luis Obispo County to deny the plan.

Last October, the county’s planning commission denied the proposal. Phillips 66 appealed and the county Board of Supervisors denied the appeal in March. In addition to the threat the oil train terminal and ensuing oil train traffic would have posed to ecologically sensitive areas, county officials also denied the project because the diesel emissions would have significantly diminished local air quality, the Center said.

“Phillips 66 has finally given up fighting the county’s rejection of its reckless plan to run trains carrying explosive crude oil through California,” said Clare Lakewood, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “We’re relieved that the county’s decision to protect communities and wildlife from toxic air pollution, train derailments and oil spills will stand.”

The Center and five other environmental groups were granted permission to intervene in the lawsuit, lending their resources to defend the environmental review process and the county’s decision. The groups and the county filed a motion to dismiss in June, arguing that Phillips 66 failed to appeal the decision to the California Coastal Commission before pursuing litigation as required by state law. Facing the motion Phillips 66 agreed to dismiss the suit.