What does a campaign do when it’s on track to outspend the competition 20 times over? Just ask the “No on Measure P” team. With less than three weeks until Election Day, Santa Barbara County’s oil operators and their supporters — notably a statewide political committee of big players from Big Oil — have amassed a $5.6 million trove, nearly $4.5 million of which they’ve pumped into, among other things, ads, consultants, legal services, and polls. Even with chunkier donations in recent weeks, the “Yes on P” side has corralled $284,000 — just a bit more than one-nineteenth of their opponents’ cache — and spent just under $100,000.
Californians for Energy Independence, the aforementioned “No” committee, has funneled $5 million of its $7.6 million war chest — $1.7 million of which is being used to fight San Benito County’s Measure J, authored by the same law firm responsible for Measure P — to the “No” side. The two single-biggest donors to the committee have been Chevron ($2.5 million) and Aera Energy ($2.1 million), the latter of which is rumored to be contemplating applying for 300 cyclic steam injection wells here. Other Santa Barbara County interests that have contributed to that state group include Santa Maria Energy and Pacific Coast Energy Company, both of whose future plans could be thwarted if the initiative passes. The regional fundraising team for “No” has seen additional donations from Santa Maria Energy ($88,134) and Pacific Coast Energy Company ($157,035), as well as Venoco ($80,000) and ERG Operating Company ($90,893), which recently applied for 233 cyclic steam injection wells.
The largest checks written to “Yes on P” have come from Montecito resident Richard Mazess ($50,000), a retired executive, and the Consumer Advocates for Safe Food and Water ($24,500). Donating $10,000 each have been the Center for Biological Diversity, Montecito gambler Stanley Tomchin, and Jack Stapelmann, who sits on the advisory council for Santa Barbara Channelkeeper. Chief advocate Katie Davis ($10,800) and Assemblymember Das Williams ($7,175) have also chipped in.
Last week — which also saw California’s Department of Conservation release revisions of Senate Bill 4, the state law aiming to tighten regulations on fracking and acidizing, but not cyclic steaming, by next July — supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf broke their silence on Measure P, officially endorsing it. They attributed their support to last week’s board meeting, where they and Supervisor Doreen Farr (who hasn’t taken a stance) voted in favor of a framework to handle oil companies’ opt-out claims if the initiative passes. Also standing up for the “Yes” campaign is the City of Carpinteria (in a divided vote by the council on Monday), State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, and several environmental groups.
Each camp has different supporters from the Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Goleta city councils. Firmly on the “No” side are the county firefighters union, the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, and the Santa Barbara Police Officers Association. North County supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino have also voiced their opposition.