After causing a ruckus when it first debuted in late 2013, a proposed project by oil giant Phillips 66 that would bring crude oil by rail through San Luis Obispo County is being recirculated for public review.
The revised draft environmental impact report (DEIR) was officially published by the SLO County Department of Planning and Building on Oct. 10, and public comments are welcome on the DEIR until Nov. 24.
The actual project—a rail spur extension that would enable the Nipomo refinery to take in a maximum of five trains (or 260,710 barrels) of crude oil per week—remains unchanged.
The revised DEIR differs in that it expands the analysis of environmental impacts beyond just SLO County.
Specifically, project opponents’ primary fear—a significant oil spill on the rails near a populated area—is addressed in the new report.
The DEIR states that the average “incident rate” of a release of 100 gallons or more of oil from a train—between nearby southern (Colton) or northern (Roseville) rail yards and the Nipomo refinery—is once every 46 to 76 years, depending on the route taken.
The DEIR says that an oil spill anywhere along the tracks in California is more likely—once every 19 to 31 years, to be specific.
The risk level for the full length of various rail routes in California was found to be “significant,” but the report notes that the county may be “preempted by Federal law from requiring mitigation for operation on the UPRR [Union Pacific Railroad] mainline tracks.”
Nipomo resident Laurance Shinderman, a member of the Mesa Refinery Watch Group—a local rail spur project watchdog—said his take on the revised DEIR is “essentially the same.”
“There is no upside for SLO County, with only the potential of a catastrophic disaster,” Shinderman wrote in an email to New Times. “I said it was a cockamamie idea months ago, and it is more so today.”
The county will hold a public workshop on the rail spur project at 6 p.m. on Nov. 5 at Mesa Middle School in Arroyo Grande, 2555 Halcyon Road. In addition, a tentative Planning Commission hearing for the project has been set for Jan. 29, 2015.