Politicians and activists who ignore reality wreak havoc on us all

From the Founding Fathers who became political leaders until today, politicians have misled and/or outright lied about so many issues that it’s hard to keep up. For centuries they have promised better days if only we would vote for them; we are still waiting. And activists—they just make noise.

To prove they care about us, politicians craft legislation to address public safety and environmental concerns. Once they have done this, they feel the job is done; there, we “had a conversation”—the problem is fixed. But many of us scratch our heads and wonder if they have made things better or worse.

Thirty years ago, I attended an environmental compliance seminar with scores of others from all over the U.S. in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and as usual they asked the group “where are you from.” I said “California,” there was a groan in the room, and then “Santa Barbara County”—another bigger groan.

The instructor then told the group that California was the most aggressive state for environmental legislation and Santa Barbara the most aggressive county in the state. Thus, Santa Barbara County was the worst county in the U.S. to conduct business due to its over-the-top environmental regulatory attitude.

As time went on, I found that he had understated the aggressive stance of our county’s government.

A recent case points out a serious flaw one politician has with his approach to “saving the earth”; another’s lack of concern for supporting compliance with the laws of our state, and yet another Lompoc activist’s inability to apply her concern for the environment to her own daily activities.

Recently the Santa Maria Sun reported that the Board of Supervisors conducted an appeal hearing concerning a decision by the county Planning Commission to deny a proposal to install 16 safety valves on the pipeline that leaked and caused the 2015 Refugio oil spill (“Supervisors unable to take action on ExxonMobil valve project,” Aug. 24). 

The Board of Supervisors couldn’t come to a consensus and agree to follow the law, so their 2-2 vote meant that the Planning Commission decision was final.

Concerning the vote, Supervisor Das Williams reportedly said, “It’s similar to a denial, but it doesn’t carry that prejudice.” How’s that for trying to put a happy face on a lack of principled leadership.

Why, you say? Well, the Santa Barbara Independent reminded us that it was Supervisor Williams who wrote Assembly Bill 864 (requiring the best available technology, which the valves are), “after the Refugio spill when he was an Assembly member in 2015.” So, his “no” vote points out his lack of principles since he didn’t support application of the law he wrote.

Then there is Supervisor Laura Capps. The staff disagreed with the Planning Commission decision saying, “The county’s role is to ensure compliance with the county’s codified requirements. AB 864 provides for state level requirements related to hazardous liquid pipeline safety. The Planning Commission’s denial contradicts the only expert evidence provided on the record. The Planning Commission concluded the pipeline’s integrity has degraded to a point of increasing the frequency of potential future spills. The Planning Commission had no basis to deny the safety valves based on speculative conclusions about the safety of future pipeline operations.”

So, even after the staff seemingly said the Planning Commission wasn’t following the law, and the current situation represented a demonstrated hazard, it didn’t matter. Supervisor Capps didn’t support the appeal, and the Santa Maria Sun reported that she said, “I respect that we are asked to talk about valves, but it defies logic for me that you would need safety valves [while it’s not operating]. With due respect, it’s not improper for me to look at the big picture, it’s actually my job to look at the big picture. I was elected to look at the big picture, and the big picture is climate change.” 

No, Ms. Capps, it’s your job to implement the laws of the state of California and the regulations of the county even when they don’t fit your agenda.

Lastly there is the local environmental activist who opposes the use of fossil fuels but drove to the meeting to protest installation of the valves in her Prius. As the Canary reported (“On the record,” Aug. 24), here’s what Toyota says about the Prius: “The vehicle always requires gasoline to operate properly.”

As for the two politicians in this story, neither belong in elected office if they can’t follow the laws, even the ones they have written, when they are considering matters before the Board of Supervisors in public hearings.

As for the activists, well, as usual they can’t seem to figure out how to live without fossil fuels.

Ron Fink writes to the Sun from Lompoc. Send a letter for publication to [email protected].

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