Thursday, October 23, 2014     Volume: 15, Issue: 33
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Santa Maria Sun / News

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 [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 21

County to draft special amendments for Measure P

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

There are two sides to the Measure P debate—the ordinance scheduled for November’s ballot will either save the world or destroy it.

The ordinance would ban enhanced oil extraction techniques such as hydraulic fracturing and cyclic steam injection. The conversation surrounding the measure is both jaded and barbed; decades of discussion surrounding oil drilling practices in Santa Barbara County is coming to a head as residents fight for what they feel is right and the county tries to figure out a way to protect itself from the potential lawsuits that could erupt should voters pass the measure.

County Attorney Michael Ghizzoni told County Supervisors in a special meeting on July 29, that some things lined out in the ordinance were overly broad and needed to be clarified further through amendments or ordinances to the county plan. Supervisors opted 5-0 to direct staff to draft those amendments

Ghizzoni said those clarifications are necessary for two reasons: To provide certainty to the community and reduce the county’s liability to takings claims—which could take the form of a mineral rights owner suing the county for taking away his or her right to pull oil out of the ground. Ghizzoni said the county has already received two express threats of takings claims lawsuits should the measure pass in November.

Edward Hazard, the president of the California chapter of the National Association of Royalty Owners who also has mineral rights in Cat Canyon, told supervisors as much during the July 29 meeting.

“We’re going to have to protect our rights,” Hazard said. “We may win, we may lose.”

Katie Davis of the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians, the group that authored the measure and drummed up the signatures necessary to get it placed on the ballot, said she wasn’t surprised the county was threatened with lawsuits, and characterized the threats as scare tactics.

Some of the uncertainty surrounding Measure P comes from the way it’s worded. Although the measure’s proponents say it doesn’t prohibit existing operations from continuing business as usual, the ordinance doesn’t expressly state that.

County mineral rights holders, oil industry employees, and residents spoke up during the public comment period of the meeting, expressing their concerns that the measure could essentially stop all forms of oil production in the county, existing or otherwise.

Joe Armendariz from the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association essentially accused supervisors of hiding how much trouble the passage of Measure P would cause for the county, adding that holding the special meeting was “exhibit A.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the legal implications of this measure are real,” Armendariz said during public comment. “It’s not benign, it’s malicious.”

Proposed ordinances and plan amendments will be presented to the Montecito Planning Commission on Aug. 25, the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission on Sept. 3, and County Supervisors on Oct. 7.