You know something unusual is happening when a crowd of people show up for a County Supervisors hearing two hours early to get a seat, and a meeting scheduled to last one hour stretches to a four-and-a-half hour marathon as 100 people make public comments.
That was what unfolded in the Santa Maria County Administration building the morning of Friday, June 13, as Supervisors met to consider the “Healthy Air and Water Initiative” to ban fracking, acidizing, and steam injection in Santa Barbara County. While the vast majority of current active wells are conventional and do not use these extreme techniques, there has been a recent surge in applications for high-intensity oil production. The Healthy Air and Water Initiative would ban future expansion of these riskier techniques, while allowing conventional production to continue.
The majority of speakers endorsed the initiative. Farmers and ranchers spoke to their concerns about the potential for water contamination. A doctor pointed out all of the toxic chemicals associated with fracking, acidizing, and steam injection. A number of speakers also pointed out that extreme extraction is not compatible with wine, tourism, agriculture, or tech and could hurt jobs and decrease property values.
After hours of public comments, the supervisors voted to place the initiative on the November 2014 ballot. This initiative gives Santa Barbara County voters a chance to decide if these techniques are appropriate for our unique, beautiful, and populous region. To read and endorse the initiative yourself, go to waterguardians.org.