By Dale Francisco
Measure P is one of the most complicated and deceptive initiatives ever placed on the ballot.
It would cripple the oil industry, a mainstay of the North County economy, and deprive the county of more than $16 million in annual revenue — most of which supports our schools. It would expose taxpayers to losses of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in “takings” lawsuits. And sadly, it’s all based on misunderstandings and misinformation.
The authors of Measure P are two law firms: San Francisco’s Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, and Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center, or EDC. Despairing of shutting down the oil industry at the state level, their goal is to eliminate oil production in California county-by-county.
Measure P supporters call themselves the “Water Guardians,” an organization that never existed before Measure P was written. Their leaders are members of 350sb.org, the local chapter of a group dedicated to combatting climate change. They believe that climate change endangers the planet, that climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels, and that therefore we must renounce fossil fuels.
They believe this sincerely and passionately. Yet polls show that most Americans rate global warming at or near the bottom of their concerns. I think the name “Water Guardians” was chosen to focus on something more immediate and tangible than global warming. Everyone cares about clean drinking water, especially during a drought.
But as Santa Barbara’s representative on the Cachuma Operation & Maintenance Board and on the State Water Project, I can vouch that safeguards for drinking water at the federal, state and local level are beyond anything the Water Guardians have dreamed of, and are far more effective than anything Measure P would provide.
It’s not just the name of the organization backing Measure P that’s deceptive — so is the measure’s title: “The Healthy Air and Water Initiative to Ban Fracking.”
New methods of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have been given much media coverage, and the public has concerns about this technology. But fracking isn’t happening in Santa Barbara County and likely never will. The Monterey Shale in our county is naturally fractured. Fracturing it further makes no sense.
The Water Guardians also claim the county’s oil producers use enormous amounts of water and compete for this precious resource with both residents and farmers. They’re wrong about this too.
What comes up from an oil well is not pure oil, but rather a mixture of about 90 percent briny water from ancient seas and 10 percent oil. All of the water the oil companies need they produce by cleaning some of this ancient seawater. The rest of this undrinkable water they inject back into the deep underground rock it came from — another sensible practice Measure P would ban.
EDC has long opposed oil production in any form; Measure P is just the latest step in their decades-long crusade. What they haven’t explained is how our economy — which is based on oil not just for energy and transportation, but for medicine, fertilizers, plastics, adhesives and on and on — will magically turn on a dime and find realistic substitutes for the myriad beneficial uses of oil and natural gas.
Santa Barbara County Counsel Michael Ghizzoni has said that the passage of Measure P would lead to the greatest exposure to lawsuits the county has ever faced. If Measure P passes and Santa Barbara County drowns in litigation expenses as a result of this poorly and deceptively written initiative, EDC will still call it a victory. But it will be a devastating loss for county taxpayers and for North County workers and businesses.
Please vote “no” on Measure P.
• Dale Francisco is a member of the Santa Barbara City Council. The views expressed are his own.