A crowd of over a hundred environmental activists rallied on Friday to oppose ExxonMobil’s proposal to truck oil along the Central Coast.
Activists from the Society of Fearless Grandmothers, the Santa Barbara County Action Network, 350 Santa Barbara, the UCSB Environmental Affairs Board, Sunrise Movement Santa Barbara and other environmental justice groups marched from the County Administration Building to De la Guerra Plaza as part of a peaceful protest on Friday. The group rallied to urge the county’s Planning Commission to deny an oil trucking proposal from ExxonMobil, which the commission will consider during a public hearing this Wednesday.
ExxonMobil’s proposal seeks to truck up to 70 oil tankers per day from its Las Flores Canyon facility to its Santa Maria Pump Station via Highway 101 and to the Pentland Terminal in Kern County via State Route 166. The company has also proposed a phased reboot of three offshore drilling platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel, which were shut down after the Refugio Oil Spill in 2015.
Current county policy only allows the company to transport oil via pipeline. In order to begin trucking, ExxonMobil must receive approval from the county to begin trucking until another pipeline can be built or the Plains Pipeline can be restored.
Activists who gathered on Friday said approval of this trucking project would accelerate the climate crisis and threaten the county’s ecosystems if a spill were to occur. Some of their concerns were supported by an environmental review completed by the county’s Planning and Development Department last month, which revealed that an accidental oil spill as a result of the trucking would have an “unavoidable” impact if the project is approved.
“Exxon’s trucking plan is reckless, it is audacious and it is knowingly endangering life to make a profit,” Alyssa Nazari Jain, a political team leader with Sunrise Movement Santa Barbara, told the crowd on Friday. “And it is a duty of the Planning Commission to reject this project.”
She told the crowd that Exxon’s tankers are “accidents waiting to happen,” noting that a spill would pollute ancestral Chumash lands, habitats of several endangered species and “threaten the safety of us all.”
“We all have a right to clean air and clean water and a livable future,” she continued. “If the Planning and Development Department won’t protect that right, if ExxonMobile won’t respect that right, then it’s up to us to fight for it.”
The group of activists marched down State Street on Friday, reciting chants like “Exxon be gone” and “Keep that oil in the soil.” They drew glances from retail shoppers and restaurant diners as they made their way to De la Guerra Plaza.
Among the group of activists was UCSB freshman Isabella Ponce. She was among dozens of students who came out to Friday’s rally and march in support of protecting the future of the environment.
“I’m hoping that we managed to tell the people in Santa Barbara and those who are sitting around outside dining that young people care about our future and we don’t want to live in a world that’s polluted by everything all the time,” Ms. Ponce told the News-Press. “And we hope to have a world to leave behind to our grandchildren and their children, and just create a better future for everyone.”
During Friday’s rally, multiple activists recalled the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released last month that estimated the world will reach a warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades. Scientists deemed the report a “code red for humanity,” and said urgent change is needed to limit further warming.
Irene Cooke, a coordinator and co-founder of the Fearless Grandmother’s Society, told the News-Press on Friday that she hopes Friday’s march helps people to understand “the urgency” of the climate situation.
“It’s very easy for people to get depressed and anxious if they hear all the horrible news and see the orange sun in the sky today,” Ms. Cooke said, noting the hazy sky above caused wildfire smoke from Northern California. “But the antidote for depression and anxiety is action. And that’s what we’re doing here.”
“We don’t have 50 years to deal with this,” she added. “We have about less than eight years to make dramatic changes in our policies globally, or people in (the younger) generation will be suffering the consequences for years to come.”
To view the Planning Commission’s agenda regarding the ExxonMobil trucking plan, visit countyofsb.org/plndev/hearings/cpc.sbc. The meeting will begin virtually at 9 a.m. Wednesday and can be livestreamed on Youtube at youtube.com/user/CSBTV20.
To make a public comment ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, submit a comment by noon Monday to firstname.lastname@example.org, or make a comment live by pre-registering for the meeting on Zoom. The registration link can be found in the Planning Commission’s agenda.