Monday, December 22, 2014     Volume: 15, Issue: 41
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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 10th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 14 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 14

Supervisors hold a special meeting on a drilling initiative

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing and other enhanced oil recovery techniques took a huge step forward in May when a petition to ban the practices gained the signatures it needed to be placed on the November ballot. Santa Barbara County supervisors are expecting to find out what the impacts of such an ordinance would be during a special meeting on June 13.

Supervisors asked staff for the impact report during their May 20 meeting. A nonprofit group called the Water Guardians gathered 19,000 signatures for its petition in three weeks. Of those signatures, the county determined more than 16,000 were valid, which exceeds the 13,000 to 14,000 needed to either place an initiative on November’s ballot or for supervisors to adopt it outright as an ordinance.

Delaying the inevitable, supervisors opted to order a report from county staffers analyzing the fiscal impacts of the initiative as well as its alignment with county planning laws.

“Whatever happens, we’re going to get this on the ballot,” 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said during the meeting. “I wish we had another option … but we don’t.”

County mineral rights owners, oil royalty holders, oil company representatives, and environmentalists spoke up during the public comment portion of the hearing. Arguments for the ordinance included environmental and health concerns, as well as the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Several speakers warned that the ordinance could tie the county up in legal battles and leave officials liable for the potential lost revenue of royalty and mineral rights owners.

“There may be some legal counsel that says this proposal isn’t legal, and I’d hate to see the county get caught up,” one speaker said. “There is litigation written all over this initiative from top to bottom. This is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and people are going to fight about it.”

The June 13 special meeting will be held in the supervisors’ boardroom in Santa Maria at the Betteravia Government Center at 9 a.m. It will be the only item on the agenda.