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No Shame in Changing Your Mind, Indy

Since When Is Fear a Principle?


I’m reasonably sure that The Independent‘s recent endorsement to vote “no” on P was a mistake — a brain-fart caused by the oil industry injecting propaganda into your head, is my guess — and I’d like to help you correct that.

You start with the notion that there are two principled ways to look at the issue. You then present a few of the principled arguments for P (although you write them in a way that infantilizes the supporters). And then you present your principled argument against P; fear.

You’re afraid of being sued by the oil companies? This is your principled argument against P? I do not believe that fear has ever been described as a principled argument, and certainly not by a newspaper called The Independent.

You claim that the measure is written in a confusing manner, but the only parties calling it confusing or poorly written are the oil companies. The measure was drafted by the top firm in the state, and then vetted by Stanford Law and the EDC (you know, the guys who helped invent environmental law). It is supported by the Democratic Party and pretty much all of the office holders whom you have endorsed in the past. What is it that you know about this measure that none of these people do? You don’t explain that; you simply parrot the oil companies’ falsehood that the measure is confusing. Gracious me, that law folderol hurts my pretty head.

You are worried about litigation, and that’s because the oil companies are threatening to sue. Makes sense. But can you imagine any law or regulation that the oil companies wouldn’t threaten with a lawsuit? This is standard operating procedure. This is what’s on your schedule for Tuesdays if you’re an oil company lawyer.

In your endorsement, you describe the supervisors hastily cobbling together laws as the response when oil companies fracked or used steam injection. And then you state that initiatives such as P should only be a last resort. What’s the first resort? Hastily responding with cobbled together laws? Measure P is a surgical ban on extraction techniques that are known to cause environmental damage. A last resort would be a measure banning all oil extraction, which is not even remotely what this measure is.

I do not understand your opposition. You’re siding with Goliath over David. You’re choosing oil companies over the environment. It does not jibe with your history, philosophy, or with a few basic rules of logic.

There is no shame in changing your mind.

The odd thing is that I believe there may be some principled arguments against Measure P, just not ones that I agree with, and certainly none of the invented ones that the oil companies are putting forth. First among them would be the property rights of those who own the mineral rights. The midterm value of those rights will be compromised (at least until there’s a less intrusive way to retrieve the oil, like, I don’t know, pumping?). I belittle, but they have a legitimate beef.

And of course the oil companies have obvious, massive financial reasons to fight the measure.

But the rest of Santa Barbara County? Not so much. We employ 23,000 people in the tourism industry, which brings in more than $1.6 billion a year. Nobody says, “Honey, spring break 2015 — the Bakken oil fields!”

Agriculture in the county employs more than 20,000 people, and produces more than $1.3 billion a year. Why would we ever endanger that with wasting millions of gallons of water in the middle of a drought, or the possibility of contaminating the groundwater?

And this is not a remote possibility. If you’d read some of the excellent coverage in The Santa Barbara Independent, you would find out about the multiple oil spills by Greka, the groundwater polluting in Kern County by Aera Energy, and the leaks, seeps, and spills of Pacific Coast Energy — all companies that extract oil in Santa Barbara County, and would like to do so more aggressively, with our water, under our crops.

Oil is not a sustainable industry. The whole point of extraction is Get the Oil Out. Once the oil is gone, do you know what happens? The oil company leaves, and it abandons whatever mess it created. Do you know what happens after you harvest a strawberry field? You plant more strawberries.

So, if you work for an oil company, or own some mineral rights, I get it. Vote “no.” Otherwise … be afraid?

Again, to summarize: A “yes” vote is to protect water, to protect the environment, and to protect the economy. A “no” vote is because of money.

I do want to apologize for the snark, because I really would like to change your mind, and my wife has made it very clear that sarcasm doesn’t get me what I want. Unfortunately, that’s my rhetorical style. She still loves me; I hope you can, too.

There is no shame in changing your mind.

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