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Oil Pipeline Company Wants To Replace, Instead Of Repair Line Which Ruptured In Santa Barbara County

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Plains All American Pipeline wants to replace 130 miles of pipeline in the wake of the May, 2015 rupture at Refugio State Beach

t was one of the worst environmental accidents on the Central and South Coasts in decades.  The May, 2015 rupture of an oil pipeline on Santa Barbara County’s Gaviota coastline caused a more than 140,000 gallon oil spill.

As a result of the accident, the continuing shutdown of two pipelines has blocked the shipment of oil from the Central and South Coasts to refineries in Kern County.

Now, Texas-based Plains All-American Pipeline announced rather than repair damaged and worn section of Pipelines 901 and 903, it’s developed a plan to completely replace them.

Karen Rugaard is the Stakeholder Relations Manager for Plains. Rugaard says by closely following the existing route, it will minimize environmental impacts. She says the proposal includes a number of safety steps past what are required by state, and federal regulators.

Environmental groups haven’t had a chance to review the plan yet. But, Kira Redmond is Executive Director of the environmental group Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, says the action isn’t unexpected. In the wake of the spill, there are certainly some people who would rather not see any pipeline as well.

But, even with Venoco shutting down Platform Holly off of Goleta, there are other companies which still have operational wells off the coast, but no practical way to ship it to Kern County for processing. Redmond says moving oil by pipeline is still safer than by using barges, tankers, tanker trucks or by train. She says replacing the pipelines will trigger a massive environmental review, with ample opportunity for the public to weigh in on safeguards they’d like to see.

Rugaard says they want to do as much as possible to reassure the community about the safety issue.

Plains officials say they know the approval and construction progress will take a few years. Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Kern counties have to approve the plan, as do multiple state and federal agencies.

Rugaard notes if the replacement plant stalls, they still has the option of pursuing repair of the existing lines. The estimated price tag for replacement of the two pipelines is more than $300 million dollars.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.