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Paul Wellman

Measure P Lawsuits Commence

First Filing Legal Falls Short, But Are More to Come?


No sooner had Measure P proponents filed suit in Santa Barbara Superior Court last week ​— ​related to opponents’ argument against it in the Voter’s Sample Ballot ​— ​than attorney Rachel Hooper, whose Bay Area law firm wrote Measure P, said it wouldn’t move forward. The initiative asks voters in November to outlaw all new fracking, acidizing, and cyclic-steaming operations in the county’s unincorporated regions. The complaint alleged that the “No on P” camp erred in its message that the measure will stop all oil production, including existing projects, and requested that a judge strike some language from the document, which ​— ​along with similar papers prepared by the “Yes on P” campaign ​— ​will be mailed to voters ahead of the election. Registrar Joe Holland said he hasn’t had a judge amend a Sample Ballot argument in his time in office.

Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Center who filed the complaint with Hooper, said the lawsuit was submitted ahead of analyses from county counsel and the auditor-controller. With those reports now part of the voter information package, Krop said, “our clients are happy with going forward trying to educate the public” and no longer see a need to challenge the opposition’s language. A representative for the “No on P” team said it isn’t expecting to file a similar challenge.

Last Friday, county planning staff unveiled a draft of protocols that county counsel recommended be enacted to head off lawsuits from oil companies and landowners if Measure P passes. Although the plans aren’t final yet ​— ​the Montecito and county planning commissions will submit comments on the procedures, with the Board of Supervisors having the final say in October ​— ​the planning department envisions that takings claims would go directly to the supervisors, while arguments for vested rights would be heard by the department’s director, with appeals allowed to the Planning Commission and supervisors. While their claims made their way through the process, companies wouldn’t be required to stop their existing projects.

The two-hour meeting attracted the divided comments typical of previous Measure P hearings, with dozens of environmental activists and industry representatives contradicting each other’s statements about what the ban would mean for the county.

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