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Crude oil train could pass through local cities 

The map shows Santa Maria Refinery's location near Nipomo.

The map shows Santa Maria Refinery’s location near Nipomo.

Concerned members of Mesa Refinery Watch Group speak out at Paso Robles City Council meeting

Members of the Mesa Refinery Watch Group spoke during the Paso Robles City Council meeting on Jan. 20 to raise awareness of the possibility of 80 train cars traveling through Paso Robles up to five times a week carrying crude oil.

oil trainPhillips 66 has been operating Santa Maria Refinery in a rural area of San Luis Obispo County near Nipomo for the last 60 years. Since 1955, it has been bringing in crude oil via a pipeline from the Channel Islands near Santa Barbara. More recently, Phillips 66 has applied for a rail spur to bring crude oil in via rail.

“They didn’t specify where [the oil will] come from,” Mesa Refinery Watch Group steering committee member Laurance Shinderman said.

In the purpose and objectives section on the draft environmental impact report, the applicant wrote that the objectives of the project are:

  • Allow the refinery to obtain a range of competitively priced crude oil by providing the capability to obtain raw material from North American sources that are served by rail.
  • Extend the existing rail spur within the refinery and install the necessary infrastructure to safely and efficiently transfer crude oil from rail cars to the existing refinery storage tanks for processing.
  • Avoid and minimize environmental and community impacts, and mitigate any unavoidable impacts to the maximum extent feasible.
  • Develop a project that is consistent with the objectives of the San Luis Obispo County General Plan and Local Coastal Program.
  • Design, construct, and operate a project that complies with all local, state, and federal regulatory requirements.
  • Maximize the use of existing infrastructure and resources to support the economic vitality of the County and State.


Shinderman said that some of the concerns he has are on the air quality and other environmental impacts that 80 cars hauling crude oil five times a week could have on adjacent businesses and residents. He said that with the rail running so close to downtown Paso Robles, an area that the city has built up over the last many years, it could have negative economic impacts.

“It will have a negative effect on all of San Luis County,” Mesa Refinery Watch Group member Linda Reynolds said at the meeting.

One group member, Kevin Beauchamp, asked that the Paso Robles City Council place a presentation on the issue on a future agenda.

While the project had been tentatively scheduled for a February hearing, it has since been pulled from the agenda, said Rob Fritz-Roy of the SLO County Planning and Building Department. He said it is now targeted to go to hearing in April or May. “We received close to 11,000 comments on the re-circulated draft EIR.” He said that it will take the department a lot of time to go through every comment to address each concern and question.

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Jan. 28, 2015: Correction – This story was updated to reflect that the rail cars could pass through town five times per week, not five times per day.

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