Let the record show that Leah Braitman from “beautiful Lompoc” flipped 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino off during an extremely entertaining hearing about valves on an oil pipeline. 

In what may have been a first for the longest-serving supervisor on the dais, Braitman was over her time limit during the public comment period, took her reading glasses off her head, put them on her face, and pushed them up with her middle finger as she said that she drove a Prius to the Betteravia Government Center that day. That hybrid Toyota containing a gas tank must be proof that she wants to get oil out. 

Here’s what Toyota states about the Prius: “The vehicle always requires gasoline to operate properly.” 

The argument—over whether the pipeline that spilled oil on the Gaviota Coast in 2015 can have the valves installed that are legally required by the state—was out of hand, as usual. And flipping a supervisor the bird epitomizes the lengths that people go to express their feelings when their emotions about climate change, oil, and the future get the best of them. 

Look, Braitman: I get it. The climate is screwed up and “oil suits” helped bring us to this place—the brink of disaster or an actual disaster depending on what weather-fueled event we are in the midst of or struggling to recover from. You think your Prius, which still needs that oil to run around, is a step in the right direction when it comes to our world’s over-reliance on fossil fuels. You believe you have a right to clean air. You want to save the planet. We all do.

Installing new safety valves on a pipeline doesn’t guarantee that oil will be pumping through it again. Flipping an elected official off at a public hearing isn’t going to get us to a cleaner, greener, future where we don’t rely on oil. And stopping one of the industry’s giants from putting technologically advanced valves on their nonoperational pipeline isn’t going to do it either.

Oil and all the products it’s enmeshed in are embedded into our lives. If we stop consuming it, ExxonMobil will stop producing it. It’s simple capitalist math. Trade that Prius in for an electric bicycle that isn’t made with any plastic or rubber.

Meanwhile, our county government was unable to take any action on the project because of a stalemate between North County and South County that couldn’t be solved by Central County, because part of the pipeline runs adjacent to 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann’s property. She recused herself. The vote was 2-2. Wild. 

It was big picture with climate change at the center for 1st District Supe Laura Capps and big picture with a potential lawsuit coming down the pipeline for Lavagnino. Neither is wrong. How can they both be right? My birdy brain is in a tizzy! 

So the county Planning Commission’s decision to deny the project is the law of the land. Even though, from the sounds of it, Santa Barbara County staff believed that, legally, the county should have approved the project.

Is there another lawsuit in the county’s future? I might bet money on it, if I was a betting bird. ExxonMobil isn’t afraid of anything.

The Canary will only bet other people’s money. Send comments to [email protected].

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