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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Crude Oil Train Rail Spur Extension Project Final EIR to be Released Soon

May, 2016
Elkhorn Slough The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, a 1700-acre Reserve of tidal creeks, freshwater marshes and verdant oak woodlands at Sunset. (Photo: Paul Zaretsky, courtesy of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation).

Sierra Club and other environmental groups locally and statewide oppose a Phillips 66 proposal which could bring mile-long oil trains carrying millions of gallons of Canadian tar sands crude from San Francisco through Monterey County near Elkhorn Slough to San Luis Obispo County.

On May 16, a motion at the San Luis Obispo Planning Commission to deny the project failed 3-2 signaling the possibility of approval at the next hearing scheduled for September 22. At that time, the commission will consider the terms of approval for the project, including a requirement that it be limited to three trains a week instead of the currently proposed 5 times a week each carrying 2.2 million gallons of crude oil.

The FEIR describes the project as a 6,915-foot eastward extension of an existing rail spur off of the Union Pacific rail mainline, a crude oil railcar unloading facility, pipeline, emergency access road, and other support infrastructure at the Phillips 66 Nipomo Mesa Refinery. The oil company says it needs the rail spur to keep the refinery and its 200 jobs operating.

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors led by Supervisor John Phillips whose district includes Elkhorn Slough voted to direct staff to write a letter to the county officials in San Luis Obispo in December opposing the Phillips 66 project. Some areas of the tracks in the Slough are underwater during part of the year and could create hazardous conditions.

With a 40-fold increase in crude-by-rail since 2008, derailments and spills have also been on a steep rise. In 2013 more crude oil was spilled from trains than in the previous four decades combined, and in 2014 there were more oil train accidents than in any other year on record.

A final decision by the Planning Commission in favor of the project will almost certainly be appealed to the Board of Supervisors. There have been hundreds of letters and public comments opposing it including Sierra Club.

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Sierra Club and CBD Submit Comments to Bureau of Land Management's Request for Public Review of Oil and Gas Leasing and Development on Federal Lands
April 2017

Sierra Club Plans to Comment on Bureau of Land Management Request for Public Review of Oil and Gas Leasing and Development on Federal Lands
January 2017

Crude Oil Train Rail Spur Extension Project Closer to Approval by San Luis Obispo Planning
May 2016

Sierra Club and Other Groups File Lawsuit against California Oil Regulators
December 2015

Sierra Club, Other Groups File Federal Lawsuit to Curb Unsafe Oil Trains
May 2015

Earthjustice, Sierra Club and Center of Biological Diversity File Lawsuit to Halt California Oil Injection Practices
May 2015

Sierra Club Condemns State Injection Well Practices, Calls for Investigation
February 2015

Sierra Club Submits Comment Letter to DOGGR
November 2014

Monterey County Board of Supervisors Review Fracking Regulations
September 2014

Trio Petroleum Well Permit Denied at Monterey County Planning Commission
August 2014

A Renewable Energy Economy?
August 2014

Sierra Club CA Submits Comments to DOGGR on Fracking
August 2014

Chapter Submits Comments to BLM Regarding the Dangers of Fracking
February 2014

Santa Cruz County Moves To Adopt Fracking Moratorium
December 2013

Sierra Club Opposes Weak Fracking Bill SB 4 Passed by the Assembly
September 2013

Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity Win a Major Fracking Decision for Central California
August 2013

Chapter Submits Comments to State Regulatory Board Regarding Lack of Oversight for Fracking; Public Concern Grows
May 2013

Sierra Club and CBD Win Major Fracking Lawsuit Victory
April 2013

New Sierra Club Lawsuit Aims to Protect More Public Lands from Fracking
April 2013

Sierra Club Sues California Department of Conservation Over Dangers of Fracking
October 2012

Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity Sue BLM over Oil Leases
February 2012

Club files protest to stop fracking in Monterey County
August 2011

Controversial fracking method approved for oil drilling near Salinas River
April 2011