Reactions to the San Luis Obispo Decision (Video)

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San Luis Obispo Rejects Oil Train Project

A major part of the grand plan surreptitiously linked to the local Phillips 66 “Propane recovery project” has been rejected. After years of debate and testimony by citizens across the state, the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission today voted 3-2 to deny the sister plant the expansion necessary to bring in three 1 mile long oil tank trains a week to that refinery. It feeds our local refinery semi refined crude oil by pipeline from the southland.  We believe the heavily diluted and extremely volatile crude that was to be delivered was a key piece of our local refinery’s Propane project that was passed by our county supervisors and is being contested in court. It may be that without this source of Tar Sands oil, the propane project will be dropped.  We shall see.

Here is a press release from

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif.— The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission today voted to reject Phillips 66’s proposed oil train facility in Nipomo. The decision comes after a nearly three-year review process, with more than 20,000 Californians opposing the project, as well as more than 45 cities, counties, and school boards sending letters urging the planning commission to deny it.

This decision comes on the heels of the Benicia City Council’s rejection Tuesday night of a similar project proposed for Valero’s Benicia refinery. The Benicia denial came only hours after the federal Surface Transportation Board issued an order upholding the city’s authority to deny Valero’s project. The board’s ruling — which rejects the claim that local governments are preempted by federal law and lack the authority to deny hazardous projects slated for their communities — also applies to San Luis Obispo County, where Phillips 66 has made similar arguments.

If built the Phillips 66 oil trains terminal would allow more than 7 million gallons of crude oil to be shipped via rail to its local refinery each week. The project would make it possible for Phillips 66 to refine volatile and carbon-intensive tar sands crude from Canada and elsewhere in the United States. Tar sands crude, when prepared for transport, is thinned with an unstable blend of chemicals have been known to explode in derailment incidents, which have become increasingly frequent in recent years.

As evidenced by the 10 oil train explosions in the United States over the past two years — and the tragic explosion that killed 47 in Lac-Mégantic, Canada — similar trains in California would place communities’ health, safety, and environment at serious risk. Trains servicing the Phillips 66 project would have traveled from the north and south through hundreds of major California cities and smaller communities, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Davis, Berkeley, Oakland and San Jose. These trains also would have jeopardized numerous ecologically sensitive areas including the San Francisco Bay and California’s iconic central coast.

Public interest groups released the following statements:

The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission listened to the people of this community, who overwhelmingly oppose this oil trains project. Our community is ready to move beyond dangerous oil projects and towards a clean energy economy that works for all of us. Should this project be appealed, we expect the Board of Supervisors to follow the Planning Commission’s lead and reject this project once and for all.”
— Heidi Harmon, SLO Stop Oil Trains Campaign

“Today is a milestone in our struggle to defeat the Phillips 66 oil train terminal project.  The majority of Planning Commissioners, paying heed both to the recommendations of their Staff as well as the thousands of SLO County citizens who oppose the project, voted to deny it. The fact that the Boards of Supervisors of every coastal county between San Francisco and Los Angeles was also opposed to the project played an important role as well. The County Board of Supervisors will next consider and vote on the project which turns the focus on the North County District One race between candidates Steve Martin and John Peschong.”
— Charles Varni, SLO County Surfrider

“Today’s vote is a great victory for the people of San Luis Obispo and California, as well as for the planet. This victory demonstrates the people power of communities all around the state who organized and participated in the public process to defeat this ill-conceived and dangerous project. Kudos also to the local residents who refused to be intimidated by a huge and politically powerful corporation that wanted to put profits before community safety.”
— Andrés Soto, Organizer, Communities for a Better Environment

“The people of California owe eternal thanks to the San Luis Obispo Department of Planning and the County Planning Commission. If Phillips 66 chooses to appeal this decision, millions will be watching the board of supervisors to see if they will choose to uphold state environmental law and the county’s general plan, or disregard the judgment of their own commissioners, the advice of county planners and the overwhelming will of the people.”
— Ethan Buckner, Extreme Oil Campaigner,

“The planning commission’s decision is a huge victory for the people of San Luis Obispo and all across California. We can all breathe a huge sigh of relief that, at least for now, Phillips 66 will not be allowed to put our communities, water and wildlife at risk from oil train explosions and fires and toxic air pollution. We applaud the planning commission for standing up to the oil industry and putting the health and safety of their constituents first.”
— Valerie Love, Clean Energy Campaigner, Center for Biological Diversity

“This project, wisely rejected by county authorities, is another example of how Big Oil wants the American people to shoulder the risk for crude oil transport — whether an exploding train or a leaking pipeline — while the dirty polluters rake in the profits. Ultimately, the best way to safeguard our air and water, our communities, and our families is to speed up the transition to clean energy prosperity and keep dirty, dangerous fuels like tar sands crude in the ground.”
— Andrew Christie, Chapter Director, Sierra Club Santa Lucia Chapter

“The Planning Commission deserves credit for listening to all the evidence, the powerful denial recommendation from their staff and the outpouring of community opposition and for denying this dangerous project,” said Linda Krop, Chief Counsel for the Environmental Defense Center.  “This was the right decision and the only possible decision if the goal is to keep our communities and environment safe.”
— Linda Krop, Chief Counsel, Environmental Defense Center.

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CBE v P66 regarding Propane Recovery Project in Martinez court

There will be a Conference regarding the “Propane Recover Project” tomorrow in county court in Martinez.  It is not a place for public comment.

WHEN:  Wednesday, August 26th at 1:45PM

Wakefield Taylor Courthouse
725 Court Street
Martinez, CA 94553

IN:   Department 17 before the Honorable Judge Barry Goode

WHAT:  CBE v. Contra Costa County and Phillips 66 Company.

CBE challenges the County’s improper certification of the EIR for this tar sands crude by rail project, disguised as the “Propane Recovery Project.”

Two other parties, the Rodeo Citizens Association, and Safe Fuel and Energy Resources, California, have filed similar lawsuits, also challenging the project.

Case Management Conference where each party will present their case to Judge Goode.

Members of the public are welcome to attend.  Although there is no opportunity to offer public comment, this is perhaps the one time in the judicial process that each party will present its case in a succinct way (30-45 minutes each).  If you do decide to attend, please observe courtroom decorum.


Download (PDF, 334KB)

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Community meeting about Emergency Notification

Small SirenA community meeting to discuss the response to the recent coker fire at Phillips 66 has been announced. Refinery managers and county response officials will be on hand to take questions.

The Crockett Improvement Association will be sponsoring a Community Meeting at the Crockett Community Center on Tuesday, September 8, at 7:00 PM. Come learn about the CAER – Community Alert System; how it works and what you need to do to be safe and keep your loved ones safe in an emergency. The recent fire at Phillips 66 will be discussed. Representatives of the CAER and other agencies will be on hand. This meeting is open to citizens of Crockett, Port Costa, Tormey and Rodeo. –

Last night there was a CAP meeting at the refinery with discussion about the cause of the fire, and the response to it.  But first, some background. The “CAP” or community advisory panel is supposed to be designed as an interface with the community. If you happen to know somebody on the panel (and they are quite selective in determining who is panelist worthy), you might be able to find out what was discussed (or served for dinner), but otherwise, not so much. Here’s a link to the agenda and minutes page that I finally found by searching the site. There is no link to it from their CAP page or anywhere else I looked.  If you visit that link you will notice that the last set of minutes is from February and the last agenda is from April. So much for their “Transparency and Accountability”. But I digress…

At last night’s meeting my source tells me that refinery management claimed they didn’t call the “sensitive receptor list” when sounding the level 2 alert (meaning some offsite consequences likely) because it was deemed unnecessary, as someone at the refinery determined the fire was going to burn itself out anyway.  That is their excuse.

As I understand it, when a level 2 alert is activated, the mandated protocol at the refinery is to immediately activate the call system. There is no time to capitulate. It is not a debatable issue then or at this point whether or not the call system activation was necessary. Waiting is not an option. The refinery failed to use it when the sour water tank exploded, when it was overwhelmingly necessary. In hind sight, perhaps this time it wasn’t needed, but the lack of implementing it in a timely manner again shows the system doesn’t work. In fact, on that Sunday, nobody present at the refinery had the knowledge to activate the system.  The refinery, again, does not hold itself accountable.

The community is largely unaware of the refinery’s warning system based on comments I’ve seen on social media, and apparently the management and workers at the refinery are equally naive. I propose refinery managers do the following immediately:

  1. Let the public know the system exists through community outreach.
  2.  Allow signups on their and the county’s website.
  3. Test the system.
  4. Train the operators and managers how and when to use it.

See you at the meeting I hope.


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Coker fire 72 hr report

A typical "Delayed Coker"

A typical “Delayed Coker”

A 72 hour report was submitted to Contra Costa Health Services regarding Sunday’s fire in the coker at the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo. The report states that the fire started at the top deck when an “Antifoam Day Tank” was overfilled with flammable antifoam solution.

The majority of the fire burned out within 10 minutes, and there was smoldering for about 45 minutes.  A CWS Level 2 alert was made, but the refinery thinks there were no off site impacts due to the lack of complaints and no recorded detection of chemicals leaving the site.

The report details the agencies involved and the times of notifications.  There is no mention of the CWS Level 2 “sensitive receptor” phone message system that the refinery is supposed to implement in such a case.

The investigation is not complete. There will be a 30 day report. Questions remain; what caused the overfilling? Was there another bad level sensor like the one that caused the sour gas tank explosion, or was there a faulty valve position sensor like the one that caused the huge flairing a couple of months ago, or operator error?  And WHY wasn’t the phone system activated?

The 72hr report follows…

Download (PDF, 20KB)

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Fire up the irony machine…

Phillips 66 teams up with local firefighters and makes a video…

The problem is that the Rodeo firehouse was closed due to lack of funds. It took the work of local residents to convince the county that it was needed and emergency grant money was finally found by our (now absentee) supervisor so that the firehouse could reopen last year. The funding is only temporary. 

In the meantime, taxes paid by Phillips 66 to the county have dropped significantly thanks to what appear to be extremely “creative” accounting practices in the (self) valuation of their property. The county tax assessor can’t reveal the figures supplied that allow the amazing devaluation of this apparently highly lucrative enterprise.

Overall, Phillips 66 reported a profit of $1.15 billion, or $2.05 a share, up from $826 million, or $1.37 a share, a year earlier. Excluding asset-sale gains, write-downs and other items, earnings rose to $1.63 from$1.34 a share.

Phillips 66 has defended their lack of support for local fire by stating publicly that they have their own fire department which is more than sufficient.  In this “small” fire, apparently mutual aid became necessary. In fact their video talks about the importance of local fire. Where is the support?

Photo by Teagan Clive

Photo by Teagan Clive

I welcome comments of course.

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Fire at Phillips 66

This time it’s real! From the Contra Costa Times:

RODEO — A small fire Sunday at the Phillips 66 refinery spurred the county health department to issue a public health advisory for the towns of Rodeo and Crockett.

The fire began around 3 p.m. at the refinery site in the 1300 block of San Pablo Avenue, spurring a response from refinery fire staff and Rodeo-Hercules fire district firefighters, Phillips 66 spokesman Paul Adler said in a statement. No injuries were reported, and the fire’s cause is under investigation, Adler said.

Full story here.20150802_064022_firerodeo3

I got what appears to be a press release from Paul Adler, refinery spokesperson, but I cannot post it here. It contained little information anyway. This is why I can’t post it….

This message originates from Phillips 66. The message and any file transmitted with it contain confidential and proprietary information which may be a trade secret, is the intellectual property of Phillips 66, and is otherwise intended to be protected against unauthorized use consistent with the Phillips 66 Code of Business Ethics and Conduct. The information contained in this message and any file transmitted with it is transmitted in this form based on a reasonable expectation of privacy. Any disclosure, distribution, copying or use of the information by anyone other than the intended recipient, regardless of address or routing, is strictly prohibited. …

In response Paul Adler says:

This was a courtesy statement sent to members of the Phillips 66 CAP and CWG.

You may direct members of the public to call the Community Information Line at: 510-245-4070 or contact the public affairs department if they have any further inquiries.

Thank you.


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Huge flaring seen at P66

Last night it was reported that very bright flaring was seen at the Phillips 66 plant at Rodeo. A reporter on Channel 2 this morning said a there was a community alert but I see no evidence of that.

I welcome comment from the refinery. I know that they monitor this page.

CCTimes article

Edit – 9:55 AM

The following statement was released from Phillips 66

At approximately 10:15 pm Pacific time on May 18 the Phillips 66 Rodeo Refinery experienced a process interruption.

The refinery’s safety systems worked as designed to direct fuel gas to the facility’s flare, resulting in visible flaring.

There were no injuries and all personnel are safe.

The refinery continues to operate and a comprehensive investigation will be conducted to determine the exact cause.


Paul Adler
Manager, Communications and Public Affairs
Phillips 66 – San Francisco Refinery

510-245-4400 (w)

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ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66 To Pay $11.5M Over Hazardous Waste Violations

The California Attorney General and seven participating counties announced an $11.5 million settlement Thursday with ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66 for violating California’s environmental protection laws.

The San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office in January 2013 joined with the California Attorney General and six other District Attorney’s offices in bringing a civil lawsuit against ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66 for violating California’s environmental protection laws by failing to properly maintain and inspect underground gasoline storage tanks at company-owned or operated gasoline stations throughout the state.

An investigation conducted into the complaint showed that the two companies caused harm to surrounding water supplies and ran afoul of California’s hazardous waste laws and hazardous materials laws as they indulged in improper storage of gasoline at 560 gasoline stations in California. The Houston-based companies denied any guilt but agreed to pay $1.5 million in legal expenses, $1 million contribution towards environmental projects in California and $9 million in civil fines.

The Alameda county district attorney Nancy O’ Malley believed that the settlement was important as it would hold all those companies responsible that breach the state’s environmental laws. California attorney general Kamala Harris was of the view that the settlement that was reached will hold oil companies responsible for posing a danger to nearby water supplies since 2006 and will go a long way in making them fall in line with environmental laws.

Ms. Harris accused the companies of breaking anti-pollution laws that pertained to their underground storage tanks. She said that ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66 were both negligent in operating and maintaining their underground gasoline storage tanks. The Attorney General added that the gasoline stored in these tanks was then sold to the public.

In the complaint, the two companies are mainly accused of violating state environmental laws by not maintaining operational alarm systems, training employees in proper protocol, conducting monthly inspections, testing secondary containment systems and maintaining leak detection devices in a proper way.

The Attorney General further informed that both ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66 had sold most of their stake in underground tank storage sites in California.

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Bay Area city opposes local Phillips 66 rail project

From KSBY:

Another Bay Area city has joined a growing list of those opposed to a proposed oil train off-loading facility in San Luis Obispo County. The City of San Leandro unanimously passed a resolution urging the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors to deny the project permit. If approved, the project would bring up to five, 80-car trains carrying crude oil through the county to the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery near Nipomo each week.

Phillips 66 says rail is its only option to bring crude in from outside the state.

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