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Oil terminal project in Port of LA draws criticism, prompting a public hearing

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

PUBLISHED: March 1, 2022 at 6:00 a.m. | UPDATED: March 1, 2022 at 4:24 p.m.

A proposal that could provide Phillips 66 continued operation of a marine oil terminal in the Port of Los Angeles for up to 40 years — after significant improvements to the wharf –has drawn criticism from community members and environmental groups.

The port released a Negative Declaration — a document explaining why a proposed project will not have a significant effect on the environment and therefore does not require a full Environmental Impact Report — in November and an extended comment period ended earlier this month.

But because of the widespread interest and numerous objections, port Executive Director Gene Seroka said, a public hearing will be held before March 31, with the date to be announced at the March 10 harbor commission meeting.

“After the hearing,” Seroka said at this week’s harbor commission meeting, “there will be an additional comment period to allow for feedback.”

Berths 148-151 Phillips 66 Marine Oil Terminal and Wharf Improvement Project (Photo courtesy of Port of Los Angeles)

Officials with Phillips 66 declined to comment.

Three neighborhood councils were among the parties that submitted letters raising concerns and asking for a full environmental study to be done.

Others expressed many of the same concerns, including about the lack of a full environmental report for the project, the potential for oil leaks and other accidents, vessel cal possibly increasing, and the prospect of investing port property in what many hope will be a dying industry as more sustainable fuel sources are developed.

The California Coastal Commission and a group of environmental interests, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, were among the entities that sent letters asking for more study.

The proposal calls for demolishing and reconstructing the existing Phillips 66 wharf structures at Berths 150-151. Vessel berthing improvements would be made at Berths 148-149.

Berths 150-151 would see the construction of a concrete wharf, with associated mooring and berthing capacity, along with an oil commodity transfer and pollution control facilities.

Altogether, the facility consists of a 13.8-acre parcel that includes backlands and a non-operational wharf at Berths 150-151, along with an adjacent wharf at Berths 148-149, where the terminal’s marine tanker vessel operations are conducted.

The site, however, hasn’t operated as a full marine oil terminal since 1919.

The existing 575 foot-long timber wharf at Berths 150-151 was constructed from 1919 to 1927 and is supported by hundreds of timber pilings.

“Extensive deterioration has occurred on the western side of the wharf,” the negative declaration report states, “rendering this facility unsuitable for continued operation.”

In a Feb. 18 letter arguing for a full EIR, the Natural Resources Defense Council — along with Communities for a Better Environment, Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and others — said the project is “disguised” as an improvement effort.

“In reality,” the letter said, “this is an expansion project that would nearly double crude oil throughput at the Phillips 66 terminal.”

Also weighing in to request a full EIR were the Northwest and Coastal San Pedro neighborhood councils.

The Wilmington Neighborhood Council listed several concerns, including the long lease agreement, the 100-year-old history and active industrial use of the area, the potential for oil leaks and contamination, and traffic diversions that would impact the adjacent Wilmington community.

“The community of Wilmington is already burdened with environmental issues,” the Jan. 25 letter states. “The applicant and the port should do all it can to ensure that our community is not further adversely affected.”

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