The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission granted a one-year extension to TerraCore for the development of its Foxen Petroleum Pipeline.
The commission voted 3-2 in favor of the extension during its Wednesday meeting. The extension goes to August 2021.
First District commissioner C. Michael Cooney and 3rd District commissioner John Parke voted in opposition of the extension. The commissioners felt the 2015 environmental impact report, drafted when the project was first approved, didn’t take into account Cat Canyon’s western spadefoot toad population, which was recently found to include a previously undiscovered subspecies.
The Foxen Petroleum Pipeline would extend 2.9 miles from the Cantin tank battery in the Cat Canyon oilfield and connect with the Phillips 66 pipeline that ends at the Santa Maria refinery. The new pipeline would replace the current practice of transporting crude oil produced in Cat Canyon by truck.
According to a staff report from Wednesday’s meeting, ERG applied to go forward with the pipeline project on March 11, 2015, but the company’s assets were acquired by TerraCore on June 28, 2019. As TerraCore’s focus since the acquisition has been on transitioning ERG’s facilities over to its company, construction on the pipeline has fallen behind schedule, necessitating a request for a one-year time extension.
While Mr. Parke said he believes transporting oil via pipeline is a safer and more environmentally friendly method than oil trucking, he wants to see further environmental review given that new information has been discovered regarding the spadefoot toad population.
“My paramount concern always seems to be the biological resources, the critters and the plants that don’t speak up for themselves. And I want to protect them,” he said.
In Mr. Parke’s opinion, the mitigation plan currently in place to protect Cat Canyon’s spadefoots is “a little too casual for purposes of CEQA” and should be further examined by experts to determine how sturdy its assurances are.
“I’d like to see the proper people review that and convince us that it’s true in the EIR,” Mr. Parke stated.
Second District commissioner and Planning Commission chair Laura Bridley thought the opposite about existing mitigation plans and said they will provide “due protection of that new little creature.”
Mr. Cooney acknowledged that there was “good cause” for TerraCore to request an extension on the pipeline, but ultimately voted against the extension for reasons similar to Mr. Parke’s.
“I hesitate to support staff’s finding that there is no new matter of significance, that this should not receive further environmental review… I, at this point, can’t make the finding that the prior environmental impact report does the job for this project,” he said.
Fifth District commissioner Daniel Blough, whose district would be impacted by the construction of the pipeline, said the one-year extension on the pipeline is “more than appropriate” and echoed the opinion that a pipeline is preferable to oil trucking.
“The commission has already weighed in on prior hearings to make the determination that the pipeline is the better vehicle to move the oil, and I see no change in that with any of the testimony I heard today,” he said.