It’s safe to say there’s been no lack of discontent over a rail spur project that would bring crude oil by rail to the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery in Nipomo.
That said, San Luis Obispo County Planning and Building Department’s rail spur project point man Murry Wilson was still surprised by the immense number greeting him when he opened the public comment email inbox for the project on Dec. 2.
“It said we had 10,600 unread messages,” Wilson said. “That’s in addition to the 50 to 100 hard copies of letters we received, so it’s going to take a while to sort through all of this.”
The 45-day public comment period for the recirculated draft environmental impact report (DEIR) regarding the rail spur project came to a close on Nov. 24, so the project is moving into its next phase.
Wilson said that his department is currently organizing and forwarding all of the public comments to the EIR consultants, who will subsequently respond to the communication and put together the final EIR for the project.
“We’re scheduled to have the final EIR published by the middle of January, and I hope we can stay on that target,” Wilson said. “It’s a matter of making sure we respond to all the letters appropriately.”
According to Wilson, the vast majority of communication received—he estimated 98 or 99 percent—was comprised of about five different types of individually signed form letters from various environmental activist groups.
For example, a Nov. 18 op-ed published in the San Jose Mercury News—authored by Richard Nevle and Deborah Levoy of activist group 350.org—encouraged readers to submit a form letter urging rejection of the rail spur project to the SLO County Planning Department.
“This might be the first time we’ve been hit with the form letter approach on this scale in SLO County,” Wilson said.
The project was initially slated for a SLO County Planning Commission hearing on Jan. 29, but that tentative date has been pushed back to Feb. 5 in order to accommodate the schedules of all commissioners.