How Will County Handle Exemptions to Fracking and Acidizing Ban?

The Board of Supervisors will break from their summer recess on Tuesday to discuss protocols for handling exemption claims from property owners and oil companies if Measure P wins voters’ approval in November. The ballot initiative — which would ban all new hydraulic fracturing, acidizing, and cyclic steaming operations in the unincorporated regions — allows for exemptions to the ban and also for the county to spell out specifically how it would deal with those waivers.

In his legal analysis released on Thursday, County Counsel Mike Ghizzoni suggested that the supervisors establish a set of rules to deal with potential complaints related to takings, vested rights, and constitutional violations of state and federal laws. The board is holding the meeting on Tuesday so that county staff have enough time to draft the rules ahead of the election, as Measure P, if passed, would take effect within a number of weeks. If the board votes to move forward with setting rules, the County Planning Commission and Montecito Planning Commission would provide feedback.

Although the rules must “further Measure P’s purposes,” Ghizzoni said the supervisors will have “pretty broad discretion” in crafting the language and that the protocols overall will help land owners, oil companies, and the county “avoid uncertainty” when managing exemption claims. “Having the process laid out is a good thing,” Ghizzoni said.

Ghizzoni’s analysis also distinguished between how oil and gas production can be regulated by different jurisdictions, with the state responsible for overseeing extraction methods and the counties charged with monitoring “land uses in support of some of those methods.” Rachel Hooper, the Bay Area-based attorney who helped write Measure P, called that point “an important distinction” and added that the measure’s proponents “fully support” the county’s fine-tuning of the exemption rules.

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