More people have participated in the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission discussion on Phillips 66 crude-by-rail expansion project than any tri-county topic in recent memory. So many that they crashed the county website Feb. 25.
Viewers near and far were unable to tune in to the county’s live stream of the morning meeting, which had been down since just prior to the 9 a.m. meeting. Officials restored the site just after 11 a.m. via an out-sourced IT specialist, county officials told the Business Times.
There have been more than 220 public speakers so far at a meeting that’s currently in its third day. Folks have been traveling as far as Sacramento to weigh in on Phillips 66’s plan to build a rail spur that would connect its refinery to Union Pacific’s major interstate railroad so it can import crude from throughout North America.
The resounding majority has objected to the project because of environmental and safety concerns. Phillips 66 contends that the Line 901 and Line 903 shutdowns following the Refugio oil spill in May have limited its operations and put around 200 of its jobs at risk. The project would add 12 permanent jobs and up to 200 temporary construction workers.
At the heart of the discussion is a legal debate. Since Union Pacific owns the railroads that fall under the regulation of federal authorities per the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995, Phillips 66 argues that state and local jurisdictions do not have authority over its interstate track operations. County counsel says that interpretation is too broad.
Cynthia Lambert of the San Luis Obispo Tribune has been live-tweeting the meetings since the first Feb. 4 meeting. She tweeted this morning that the meeting will likely be continued until March 11 due to the numerous public speakers.
• Contact Alex Kacik at [email protected]