We believe that climate change is a serious threat to the global economy and that human activity is a significant contributor to global warming. We believe that significant policy changes about how we obtain and use energy will be required to reduce the human impact on climate change.
But we also believe that market-based solutions put into place on a state, regional, national and global basis are the best way to reverse that impact. Which brings us to Santa Barbara County’s Measure P, an initiative that would ban certain fracking and other “high intensity” oil and gas operations in the county. After airing a considerable amount of debate on these pages during the past few weeks, we are recommending a vote against this ballot initiative.
Our first reason is the lack of clarity in the language of the ballot measure. Already taxpayer dollars have been spent for Santa Barbara County planning staff to examine and offer in advance an interpretation of what the ballot measure would mean for existing oil and gas operations if it were to pass. We are concerned that if passed, Measure P, will require tremendous resources as county staff, third-party experts and the courts try to understand what it really means.
Second is the potential negative impact on Santa Barbara County’s budget. The county was blindsided by the negative impact of the recession on revenue, which triggered some $80 million in cuts. The county is just now recovering from those cuts, and its pension plan is severely underfunded. Firefighters, law enforcement personnel and some top teachers have come out against Measure P.
Third, there is the issue of duplication of effort. Santa Barbara County has approved an ordinance that imposes an extra level of regulation on fracking. That ordinance has just gone into effect, but it has not been tested. It seems to us that letting the fracking rules play out makes more sense than heading down an uncertain path.
Fourth, we also resent the fact that proponents of Measure P have turned the debate into an up-or-down vote on the question of climate change. They have tried to link well-thought-out positions by our local chambers of commerce to those of climate-change skeptics or climate-change deniers.
Finally, we’d offer that Santa Barbara County has done a very good job on the climate front. The county’s emPower program is being cloned in Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, a major new utility-scale solar power station in the Cuyama Valley has been approved, and the county has not been shy about imposing tough restrictions on new development.
The bottom line on Measure P is that Santa Barbara County’s supervisors, accountable to the voters every four years, have been responsible parties when it comes to climate rules. Let’s give them the leeway to keep doing their jobs.