Thursday, April 26, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 8

Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on July 29th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 21 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 15, Issue 21

An environmentalist says no on P

Take this measure back to the drawing board


After participation in a six-year battle to successfully close a toxic waste dump site next to Casmalia in Santa Barbara County, it would be a gross understatement to say that I am sensitive to false and misleading environmental views and opinions. Santa Barbara County voters need to step back and take a closer factual look at this local Measure P proposal and its impact. Under normal circumstances, if it were well written, I would be a strong supporter of this effort, but on close scrutiny it has major flaws that make it bad for the county. Its breadth and ambiguity make it a poor choice for us all.

Supporters of this effort point out that our county now receives a substantial amount of income from the tourist industry and that oil, farming, and our large military base and all the related industries they support are of little or of no importance, but I beg to differ. All of these pillars of our economy are important, and one only needs to look at the effect of the Botox maker Allergan’s looming shutdown in Goleta. It will impact more than 300 high paying jobs and will be a hit to our economy as it ripples through the county with the loss of additional service jobs. The breadth and ambiguity of this Measure P proposal will in effect shut down our oil industry, and its impact will be severely damaging to our entire county economy.

Historically, both farming and the oil industry have grown together from the early 1900s with no local long-term ill effect to our environment. They have pumped needed cash into our local economy through jobs, royalties, and taxes that have in turn been spent locally. Unfortunately, the environmentalists who drafted this measure in their zeal to get rid of fracking included a ban on many other common oil field practices that have been used for well more than 30 years with no ill effect. First, they broadly included acidizing, which is used to clean up the crust that develops inside oil well casing so that the oil, liquids, and gas can flow easily. Yipes! They don’t seem to realize that this same process is used to clean up drinking water wells that have become encrusted. It is a safe process in both instances. Next, they also broadly included well steaming as a prohibited activity. This is used to heat up thick oil and make it pumpable. They seem to be afraid that it will waste water! Again, they don’t seem to understand that the water used is brine water that comes up with the oil and gas. Nor have they heard of one local Santa Maria oil company who also plans to use treated sewer water to steam deep wells on Orcutt Hill. These two sources of water are sound, environmentally friendly uses for this water that would normally go to waste. Both these broadly written prohibitions against long-used safe practices taken together would end oil production in our county.

As we move into the future, there are promising new energy technologies on the horizon that have drawn the attention of investors such as Warren Buffet. They will cause society to slowly evolve to other energy sources. New solar panels are now nearing completion that are smaller and many times more productive and will soon turn solar power into a cheaper energy source than coal power. Hydrogen power research is moving forward. Most importantly we are starting to see depleted oil fields using excess carbon dioxide from coal emissions to produce more oil that will keep carbon out of our atmosphere. Major changes are now afoot that will make it foolish to prematurely pass Measure P and cripple our county economically.

After a careful reading of Measure P, it is apparent that major ambiguities exist that could plunge our county into years of legal conflict at taxpayer expense. The issues run the gamut from violation of property rights under state and federal laws to infringement of vested property rights amounting to an unconstitutional taking prohibited by the United States Constitution. No clear standard for exemptions is provided in the measure, which could also lead to legal entanglements. One could understand a reasonable regulation of how fracking is implemented based on scientific facts, but this goes far beyond reason and is not in our best interest. The breadth and ambiguities in this proposal deserve a “no” vote and a move back to the drawing board.


Ken McCalip is a retired principal/superintendent and a North Santa Barbara County native who holds bachelor and doctorate degrees in history, cultural geography, and law from various California universities. He can be reached at Send comments to the executive editor at

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