Monday, October 20, 2014     Volume: 15, Issue: 32
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Santa Maria Sun / Letters to the Editor

Measure P measures opportunities

Ali Fakhreddine - Santa Maria -

I am writing this letter to share my perspective on Measure P. I was born and raised in a war-torn country in the Middle East, where oil is very abundant but jobs are very scarce due to corruption that affects every level of society and restrains economic development and job availability.

I was one of the lucky ones to have been able to move to California, the land of unlimited opportunities, where oil plays an important role in the economy. Over time, I became acquainted with many families employed in the oil industry, hard-working people who hope the future generations will also be able to enjoy the great opportunities this industry offers. However, these families might kiss their dreams goodbye if Measure P passes, an initiative that guarantees the decimation of the existing and future development of all kinds of oil operations in Santa Barbara County. It breaks my heart to think about the repercussions this initiative has, not only on these hard-working families, but also on the tax revenues enjoyed by public schools, fire departments, and other public services.

I could not enjoy the benefits of this great resource back in my home country; I hope I can here in Santa Barbara. Let’s take full advantage of this underground wealth instead of banning its extraction. No on P for greater oil independence. No on P for more jobs and prosperity. No on P for a better future.


Big Oil is paying cash; what will we pay?

Rebecca Carey - Santa Maria -

It’s hard not to notice all of the “No on P” signs plastered all over town. Big and small, they are everywhere.

Signs are expensive.

Big oil has bankrolled them. They have spent more than $2 million to defeat Measure P in our county.

Big Oil is the same industry responsible for (to name only a few)

  • Exxon Valdez
  • Gulf oil spill
  • Amoco Cadiz oil spill
  • Deep Water Horizon

What price will we pay? Please vote yes on Measure P. Your children will thank you.


Stop the oil and gas takeover

Emily Houlik-Ritchey - Lompoc -

These companies are fighting Measure P because they want to ramp up high-intensity extraction all around us in Santa Barbara County. Regardless of whether they use fracking, or acidization, or steam injection, the risks to our local area are the same. All of these techniques use and pollute water, hurt our health, and increase air pollution, and they can even trigger earthquakes. If you are skeptical, take a visit to a Kern County oil field using fracking or steam injection and see what it’s like to be surrounded by thousands of wells.

Nor will this be good for our economy. Peter Rupert of the UCSB Economic Forecast project pointed out in a recent Santa Maria Times article, “Oil and gas is kind of a strange industry in the sense that the employment share is pretty low—less than 1 percent.” And it discourages growth in other, more sustainable, and more job-creating economic development. Again, look at Kern County, which has unemployment higher than Santa Maria or Lompoc. Do we really want that for our area?

California’s state water board recently confirmed that at least nine wastewater injection disposal wells have been illegally injecting fracking wastewater into aquifers that are protected by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The immediate and long-term health hazards from this pollution are grave indeed. This is pollution we all now have to live with. There is no getting this contamination back out of the water that our state so sorely needs for drinking, washing, and agriculture.

In our own Santa Barbara County, Measure P would ward off a massive surge in oil industry wastewater. As this pollution fiasco in the Central Valley has demonstrated, the industry isn’t prepared to dispose of such wastewater legally or safely.

Measure P doesn’t apply to current oil operations or any conventional drilling, but it would put the pause on this massive planned ramp up in risky extraction. If it is determined at a later date that some of this production is necessary, good, and safe, the law can be changed. The oil will be there. But if we hand over the keys to our county to oil speculators experimenting with damaging techniques, we could find our water and land permanently contaminated, our property values lost, our friends and neighbors sick, and if that happens, there is no way to go back. Vote Yes on Measure P.


Oil is under assault

Robert Barnes - Santa Maria -

With the introduction of SB 1096 to prohibit drilling in the Tranquillion basin along with Measure P and the 3-2 County Supervisor vote to support 1096, it is obvious to even the casual observer that an all-out assault against oil is once again in progress and change with no alternative is advocated. The defeat of Measure M brought the calculation that the time is right to push an environmental agenda. Along with this effort proponents have proffered a fusillade of hype, misinformation, and hypocrisy.

For instance the threat is possibly “the future livability of the planet” according to Katie Davis of the Water Guardians and the Al Gore Climate Reality Leadership Project. In fact, the number of barrels of recoverable oil from the Monterey Shale has been downgraded by the feds from 15 billion barrels to less than a billion, and while hailed as an environmental victory, it bears no significance for Measure P which in part was predicated on it. Strange.

Reading Measure P, you would find a document that posits a future of tech, tourism, renewables, and agriculture. Tech has been fleeing the county for years, and where are the renewables and where are the economic benefits? In fact, renewables are frequently subsidized—a double whammy. If the intent is to destroy the oil industry and its economic benefits, where are the replacement economic benefits? Also, where is the evidence that oil has impacted tourism and agriculture in Santa Barbara County? Where also is the evidence for water contamination by acidation and steam injection in the county? It would be appropriate if they cited what actually is going on in the county rather than Alberta, but that’s indicative of outside influences. While it’s OK for proponents to use outside evidence and organizations, it’s not OK for oil to bring in “ringers from Houston.”

The measure is also crystal clear on what oil companies can do: virtually nothing, as even the injection of air will be prohibited. All modern methods of extraction will be prohibited, basically ignoring advances in technology and safety, and it lays it out in specific highlighted changes to the county code. It is less than clear—perhaps deliberately so—as to what oil companies can do with existing wells, and exemptions are given short shrift and no elaboration. Ambiguity aside, one comes away from reading the document that its intent is to eliminate all oil production in the county.

While the threat is overstated, the impact is severely understated. Publically, proponents only admit to the $16 million property tax impact to the county, mostly dedicated to education and fire. By that admission only, the intent is clear: Get rid of all oil, GOO (Get Oil Out) reconstituted and revisited. Moreover, it should be obvious that if a no-growth, gradual-dissolution policy is the goal, future revenue will be reduced and eliminated—there is no other alternative. There is also a 2013 UCSB Economic Forecast that indicates a $291 million yearly negative impact on the county should oil production be halted. Proponents minimize its impact, even deny it. Truthfully no matter what the number, they can’t replace it.

Finally, in the last election, only 15 percent of the eligible voters participated. However the real impact is spread to the tax base, taxpayers, us. As oil revenue goes down, individual taxpayer liability goes up. When voters defeated Measure S in 2010, they left an unfunded liability for the operational costs of the new county jail and STAR complex. Taxpayers should ask, in an already “rob Peter to pay Paul” economic reality, what sense does it make to approve a measure that has as a logical consequence a negative impact on the tax base and the overall economic condition without viable alternatives? Vote no on P.