Wednesday, May 23, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 11

Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on November 19th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 37 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 37

A dispatch from the colonies

South County threw North County under the bus in the Santa Maria Energy matter


They know what’s good for us

As 4th District supervisor, I had people asking me what happened with the Santa Maria Energy project. I’ll tell you what happened—and why. South Coast Supervisors Janet Wolf, Doreen Farr, and Salud Carbajal ignored state law, common sense, and the wishes of the people who live and work in the North County in favor of a radical environmental agenda. Supervisor Carbajal is board treasurer of ICLEI USA, an extreme organization that advocates the reduction of our living standards to further environmental goals. Carbajal’s South County colleagues clearly share his views.

These three have just sent a message to the residents of the North County—the “Colonies,” as I sometimes say. They know better than we do. They are smarter than we are. They know better than their own Planning Department staff and their own Planning Commission. They know better than the labor unions, all of which backed the project.

 We, too, want jobs and prosperity

The roughly 115 public speakers were two-to-one in favor of having this project proceed as recommended by staff and the Planning Commission. For six hours, we sat and listened while people who produce goods and services, employ others, and are employees themselves stood before us and pleaded for their livelihoods.

The issue was not the approval of the project. The real issue was whether the project would be able to make a profit. Emission reductions are profit reductions, plain and simple. The environmental radicals know that without profit no company will start up or continue operations. They have learned that they can say “no” by saying “yes, with conditions.” Unhappily, the Nov. 12 vote sent a powerful message to business: Don’t come to Santa Barbara County.

 It’s really about ideological purity

Nor was Tuesday’s debate about the air pollution issues that we have successfully confronted over that last half-century. In the early 1950s, we realized that we were polluting the air we breathed. We needed to clean up, and we did. Tuesday’s debate was not about this kind of air pollution. The debate was about reducing greenhouse gas—principally carbon dioxide—so that the planetary atmosphere does not deteriorate. No matter where one stands on the threat of global warming, we face one stark reality: The reductions that we make locally can be rendered meaningless by increased emissions anywhere else on the planet. Our state has addressed this planetary-scale issue. California law—AB 32—sets the standards for greenhouse gas emissions.

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino and I asked our colleagues to take a measured approach. They declined. I proposed that the project be held to a standard that complied with AB 32. The Planning Commission had proposed a more stringent standard that the project proponents were ready to embrace. But neither was good enough for our three South Coast supervisors. They voted to “set an example” for the rest of the world by adopting standards that exceed California law.

They burnished Santa Barbara’s reputation as the cradle of the environmental movement. In doing so, they threw the economy of the North County under the bus. It is immoral and unjust that the economic well-being of the North County suffers so that South County activists can set an example for the rest of the world.

 We’re different, and we would like some respect

What we have here, folks, is an uneasy truce. People in the North County have tried to split Santa Barbara County twice in the last 30 years. The lack of respect and the paternalism that we saw last Tuesday is why. We in the “colonies” would like to see this change.


Peter Adam is the 4th District supervisor in Santa Barbara County. Send comments to the executive editor at

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