Coastal Preservation, Legal
October 03 2017

Victory on California’s Central Coast: Phillips 66 Pushed to Dismiss Lawsuit

by Angela Howe

On October 2nd, Phillips 66 oil company agreed to dismiss their lawsuit over their proposed Nipomo rail spur project. The Phillips lawsuit originally intended to salvage the project that was rejected by San Luis Obispo County’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors earlier this year. Their plan was to build a rail spur at its Nipomo refinery and extend the rail line to bring in dangerous large trains carrying crude oil through hundreds of miles of coastal land and popular beach towns on the central California coast.  

The County of San Luis Obispo and an environmental coalition, including the Surfrider Foundation, finalized a settlement agreement with Phillips in order to dismiss the case. Our partner intervenors, consisting of the Environmental Defense Center, Communities for a Better Environment, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and Stand.Earth, recognized that the prospect of a mile-long oil tanker train posed major threat to coastal resources and to many millions of people living and working in the blast zone, and therefore decided it was critical to take part in the litigation. The citizens of San Luis Obispo and other beach city communities showed up by the thousands to prevent an increase of crude oil trains rolling by their homes, schools and businesses with the potential for derailment. 

Local community leader and Surfrider Foundation campaign head, Charles Varni, had this to say on the dismissal: “This is a proud day for the thousands of Californians who stood up to Phillips 66 and said, 'No' to its proposed crude oil train.” Since 2015, the San Luis Obispo Chapter of Surfrider Foundation has been organizing rallies and marches with hundreds of people who opposed the project, in addition to their administrative advocacy and litigation efforts.

The settlement concludes the litigation entitled Phillips 66 Company v. County of San Luis Obispo, et al., that was pending in the San Luis Obispo Superior Court (Case No. 16CV-0502). The Surfrider Foundation joined the litigation in order to convince the judge that the oil company's challenge should be dismissed. Phillips never had a strong case against the County and upon seeing that writing on the wall, Phillips 66 effectively ended the case themselves with this settlement and dismissal. The County's denial of the project stands, as does its determination of environmentally sensitive habitat area that would have been effected by the project footprint. With this litigation victory, the central coast's community and environmental resources are protected another day.

Surfrider Foundation was represented by expert counsel Linda Krop and Alicia Roessler at Environmental Defense Center in this litigation.