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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 17th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 15 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 15

Oil drilling initiative headed to November ballot

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM


GUARDING RESOURCES
Blue-shirt-wearing backers of the Water Guardians cause, an initiative to ban certain oil drilling practices, held signs calling for a ban on hydraulic fracturing during a June 13 Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors special meeting on the subject.
PHOTO BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

Santa Barbara County voters will have their say on such oil drilling practices as hydraulic fracturing and cyclic steam injection come November.

In a special meeting held on June 13, Santa Barbara County supervisors unanimously voted to send an initiative banning high-intensity oil drilling techniques to the ballot. Because the Water Guardians collected the number of signatures needed, the supervisors had two options: Either send it to the ballot or adopt the initiative outright as an ordinance. They made the decision after hearing a report from county staffers about how such a ban would affect the county and listening to the opinions of 100 public speakers.

There were two arenas of public sentiment voiced at the meeting: for the ban and against it; blue shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Save our Water BAN FRACKING” opposed green pins that read “Don’t Take Away My Job;” and the arguments on both sides involved “scare tactics,” according to 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino.

Put in the bleakest terms, it was the death of Northern Santa Barbara County’s economy—loss of property taxes, money for schools, and jobs—versus destruction of the county’s environment—tainted water, polluted air, and a blighted landscape.

The reality is that ban backers are fearful that a significant increase in oil wells will result in issues that currently face towns in Pennsylvania and Colorado—undrinkable water—or the well-heavy landscape of Kern County. As for how a ban on high-intensity drilling—acid-fracking, acidization, hydraulic fracturing, steam injection, and basically anything more complicated than simply poking a hole in the ground—would affect the county, Planning Department staffers expect applications for 533 new wells in the near future, of which 100 percent are likely to propose the use of cyclic steaming.

Oil production companies pay $16.4 million in local property taxes, or 2.65 percent of the total tax roll. Of that total, $10.2 million is allocated to local schools. The consensus from planning staff is that negative effects from the ban wouldn’t be felt immediately, but over time.

Ultimately, the arguments for and against the ban will be launched and drawn out until November.

“Both sides are going to have their say,” Lavagnino said. “I’ll be doing my part to make sure this matter is defeated in November.”

Just as there’s a divide among residents of Santa Barbara County, the supervisors have their own split. While the board as a whole won’t be drafting an argument one way or another, individual supervisors said they’ll be working their side of the argument conga line before the initiative comes to a head in the fall.

“I have, to this point, not made up my mind,” 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal said. “I’m giving serious consideration to endorsing this initiative.”