Rob Rossi files suit against ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66

May 3, 2016

Santa Margarita Ranch 2


Rob Rossi, an owner of the more than 14,000 acre Santa Margarita Ranch, filed a lawsuit against ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66 on Friday for allegedly operating a pipeline that has contaminated a portion of the ranch.

Phillips 66 has a 1.8 mile easement across a 900 acre portion of the ranch that sets north of the City of Santa Margarita, which is known as the Ranch Headquarters. The easement starts near Highway 58 east of town and runs under Highway 101 near the Santa Margarita exit.

The pipeline extends 78 miles from a Santa Maria refinery to a junction pipe station in the San Joaquin Valley.

In the years since the pipeline was constructed, the defendants removed or replaced the pipeline twice. During one of the maintenance projects, hydrocarbons were discovered to have leaked into the soil, according to the lawsuit.

The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board then opened an investigation that led to the discovery of oil related contaminants in the soil and groundwater in areas adjacent to the pipeline. The contaminates discovered showed that the leaks were not only historical but current, as some of the chemicals found were not added to oil until 2000, according to the lawsuit.

Rossi’s lawsuit, filed by San Luis Obispo attorney David Cumberland with Adamski Moroski Madden Cumberland & Green, says the contamination has impeded Rossi’s ability to grow crops and fully utilize the headquarters portion of the ranch. Even so, Rossi believes the contamination can be abated, according to the lawsuit.

The ranch vineyards, ziplines and proposed housing development sites are separated from the contaminated area by the City of Santa Margarita.

In his lawsuit, Rossi is seeking that the defendants stop any continuing pipeline leaks, clean up any contamination from its pipeline on the property, reimburse Rossi for expenses related to the leaks, indemnify Rossi, pay damages for injury to the property, pay civil penalties for contaminating drinking water and pay Rossi’s legal costs.

“Defendants’ petroleum hydrocarbon contamination on the headquarters property, in addition to posing a continuing threat to human health and the environment, has impeded and, until abated, will continue to impede Rossi’s ability to freely and beneficially use, enjoy and develop his property,” the lawsuit says.

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Millionaires against billionaires — the New America.

Jorge Estrada

It’s about time! There was a rumor about oil filling the holes for the new foundation of the bridge widening project on Highway101. Supposedly it was pumped then the concrete was immediately poured. I have called Pillips 66, Todd Denton, Yanira ?, and Butch Lemos to establish some dialogue but to no avail.

My concern was the Town of Santa Margarita water supply which IS recharged by Santa Margarita Creek, that which the Highway101 bridge widening project spans. I am not sure that this is a secret because the County of SLO has never yielded to well water exploration per the Todd Report in order to meet the communities possible emergency water needs.

Santa Margarita Creek is the feed by Cuesta Springs Creek and Tassajara Creek. These Steelhead habitats are victims of the California Fish and Wildlife, which seem to only have a cursory interest in protecting such inland waters ways. My observation is that they don’t give a crawfish about water ways unless there is political coastal mitigation funding to be poached. Having said that and with consideration to the good local field officers, my guess is that they have been reduced to the same funding constraints as the interagency parasites like the Local Water Quality Control Board or the Air Pollution Control Board.


Couldn’t have leaked more oil than the Harley’s that drive around our county.

debbie peterson

If it is leaking on Rossi’s Ranch, the likelihood is very high that it is leaking elsewhere. Others whose property is also crossed by the pipeline would be well advised to check their wells and soil surrounding the pipeline.

From the 1940s to the 1980s the pipeline leaked 18-19m gallons of diluent in the Guadalupe Dunes, destroying the shallow aquifer.

Then, of course, there was Refugio, and many others over the past decades.

Kaiser Bill



It’s always amazed me when it comes to the issue of oil and the anger of those who have bought into the myth that oil is somehow a “pollution”. It’s natural folks! It dwells underground in many regions throughout the world. The God of creation knew full well what He was doing when He created all that is.

Walk Montana de Oro sometime and look at the oil globs on the rocks. Walk the beaches in Santa Barbara and see the oil globs littered all over the sand. It’s a natural resource for crying out loud! Just as are trees with which we choose to build our homes. Water which we drink to stay alive and hydrated, plants and animals on which we subsist. The list goes on and on.

But, let man harness that oil and use it for powering the cars we drive, the heat we enjoy on cold winter nights, and many other oil derived products such as is our history, and let one spill occur, and the enviro nutcases go…well…nuts! It makes no sense to me other than the old adage; “If you tell a lie long enough, people will believe it”. The left of course.

Since the inception of the EPA which is nothing more than an unconstitutional bureaucratic monstrosity, it’s birth has given birth to so many enviro Nazism organizations just to justify jobs for people who make LOTS of $$ sucking off the US taxpayer that it has become a way of making a living and living LARGE. All due to spreading fear. Which the US gubment has become the master.

Oil in it’s God made form, No problem. Oil handled by man and spilled…CATASTROPHY!

Let me ask a question to all of the militant enviro’s out there. When the day comes that the EPA mandates that all people carry with them in their vehicles an oil collector to put under your vehicle each time you go to the grocery store, hardware store, etc., will you accept that? It will be a burden on not only you but the rest of us that understand the truth. Will you abide by the law? Or will you keep driving your Prius’s [which btw have an impact upon your perception of what is good for the enviro] due to the fact that your expended batteries have to go somewhere. A landfill or incinerator perhaps?

Rob Rossi is using a tactic that he knows causes fear. Blaming a supposed oil leak because man has harnessed it. Apparently to his benefit. Shameful.


First. oil may be natural, but so is molten rock. They are reasonably safe WHEN TRAPPED under millions of tons of earth. The ecosystem, including humans, did not develop in the context of such hydrocarbons sharing the same space with us in large quantities. It is NOT just like trees or water.

Second, natural seepage generally dissipates through rock formations which removes man toxins. SOME of the tar you see on the beach is from natural seepage, but most of it is from human activities (improperly capped wells, increased well pressure from fracking, leaky pipelines, etc.) I remember hearing the same thing about Avila when I was a kid. When you got out of the water, there would be tar sticking on you, and everyone said “natural seepage.” Turns out it wasn’t.

I am not a militant environmentalist, and I really don’t care to regulate people’s activities. But we are not looking at a free market in energy. We are looking at market heavily distorted by government activities (like building freeways, manipulation of oil prices, fighting wars to protect oil interests, etc). Once you distort the equilibrium forces of the market like that, you better be prepared to mitigate the consequences.


Thank you Rob Rossi. This is not only important for the ranch, but for the people of Santa Margarita. Clean water is one of our greatest needs. I hope this results in a cleanup and more oversight.


Did the pipe leak more oil than his raggedy-ass steam engine he runs around the property while disturbing the neighborhood?

Ted Slanders


Does his steam engine that is run only on certain occasions, more disturbing that the Union Pacific main line trains that are run through Santa Margarita daily with their blaring whistles at each road crossing? In this situation, are you the “pot” or “kettle?”


This is long over due…

The shallow ground water basin that many use every day sits directly under this pipeline and any contaminates would be sucked up in the wells along the basin, including the community of Garden Farms.

Go Rob.


Hmmmm, I’m guessing in the new future, Mr. Cumberland will be driving a new Mercedes. Oil companies have deep pockets.


They also have massive legal teams that are expert at dragging things out until the people suing them run out of money or patience and drop the suit or settle for a pittance. I am sure that Mr. Cumberland is aware of this and Mr. Rossi has relatively deep pockets himself but I am betting that it will take over a decade for the lawsuit if a settlement is not reached.