Phillips 66 Dismisses Lawsuit Fighting for California Oil Train Expansion

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Dismissal Comes After Environmental Groups Intervene

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif.— Phillips 66 agreed today to dismiss its lawsuit challenging the county of San Luis Obispo’s denial of its proposed oil train terminal in the coastal town of Nipomo, Calif.

“Phillips 66 has finally given up fighting the county’s rejection of its reckless plan to run trains carrying explosive crude oil through California,” said Clare Lakewood, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “We’re relieved that the county’s decision to protect communities and wildlife from toxic air pollution, train derailments and oil spills will stand.”

The terminal would have allowed more than 7 million gallons of crude oil, including tar sands oil, per week to be shipped by train from across North America to Phillips 66’s Nipomo Mesa refinery.

Tar sands crude, when prepared for transport, is thinned with an unstable blend of chemicals that can explode in derailment incidents, which have become increasingly frequent in recent years.

Trains servicing the terminal would have traveled through hundreds of California cities, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Davis, Berkeley, Oakland and San Jose. The plan also threatened ecologically sensitive areas like the San Francisco Bay and California's central coast.

Phillips 66 proposed its Rail Spur Project in 2013. During the nearly three-year review process, more than 20,000 Californians voiced opposition to the project, and more than 45 cities, counties and school boards sent letters urging the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission to deny it.

The planning commission denied the proposal in October 2016, and the county Board of Supervisors denied the company’s appeal last March. The county denied the project because, among other reasons, the site contains ecologically sensitive habitat areas and the increased diesel emissions would significantly worsen local air quality. Phillips 66 then sued the Board of Supervisors challenging the habitat determination.

The Center and five other environmental groups were granted permission to intervene in the lawsuit to defend the environmental review process and the county’s decision. The groups and the county filed a motion to dismiss in June, arguing that Phillips 66 failed to appeal the decision to the California Coastal Commission before pursuing litigation as required by state law. Facing the motion Phillips 66 agreed to dismiss the suit.

“Phillips 66 failed to silence the many Californians who took a stand against this risky fossil fuel project that would slow our state’s transition to a clean energy future,” said Lakewood. “I hope the county continues to defend public safety and vulnerable wildlife habitat from ill-conceived oil and gas expansions.”

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