As a former member of the State Fair Political Practices Commission, I saw firsthand how our politics bends under the influence of money. The problem is currently 10 times worse since the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United decision that shamefully discounts and ignores the influence of political spending on policy outcomes.
The No on Measure P campaign will likely be one of the most expensive efforts to block a local ballot initiative in state history. No on P outspends Yes on P at a rate of more than 20 to 1, pouring in $7.7 million to date.
In my opinion, Measure P is carefully crafted to protect Santa Barbara’s air and water from increasingly aggressive oil and gas extraction methods. As an attorney, I am impressed by the initiative’s authors’ deft handling of land-use law.
Measure P establishes essential environmental protections. The measure protects private property rights. It does not reduce by a penny the rights to extract oil with existing methods for future extractions by conventional means.
Measure P includes important provisions to protect Santa Barbara County from future lawsuits that might stem from Measure P largely because it falls squarely in line with legal precedent and established land-use law in California.
Measure P was drafted by capable lawyers with significant experience in election and land-use law. They have drawn up or supported many other similar measures that once passed as law, have later withstood scrutiny by the courts.
I’ve struggled with a question for many months. Why is the oil industry fighting Measure P so aggressively? Why has it employed everything from scare tactics, half-truths, and some real whoppers to convince Santa Barbara residents to vote “no”? If I had to venture a guess, it’s because the measure is so well written that they know their exaggerated claims will not stand a chance in court.
As November 4 approaches, I urge all Santa Barbara voters to take a step back and consider why Measure P is necessary to begin with. Oil companies are using increasingly toxic cocktails to access hard-to-reach deposits through fracking and acidizing. And the preferred form of extreme well stimulation here in Santa Barbara County — cyclic steam injection — uses an enormous amount of fresh water — in competition with our flourishing agriculture industries — and energy to enhance production. For every barrel of oil, cyclic steam injection brings to the surface eight-10 barrels of highly contaminated wastewater. Does anyone really trust the oil companies’ promises of “risk free” development?
Look across the U.S. Wherever there has been widespread fracking and other extreme methods of extraction, there have been environmental disasters.
The Government Accountability Office, which is the Congressional watchdog agency, issued a report earlier this year indicating the EPA’s monitoring of fracking was insufficient, noting growing evidence that the practice is tied to groundwater contamination and induced seismic activity.
Oil companies have a huge profit motive to engage in ever-more-aggressive techniques to reach oil buried deep below the surface, including in the Monterey Shale. There is every reason to believe that these invasive techniques will ramp up right here in Santa Barbara County as technology advances. That is, unless we draw the line by passing Measure P.
Please, don’t believe the oil industry’s hype. Vote “yes” on Measure P; be on the right side of history. Help enact reasonable limits on extreme oil extraction techniques in Santa Barbara County. Join me in voting Yes on P.
Stan Roden is mediator/arbitrator and teaches conflict resolution and negotiation at Santa Barbara and Ventura Colleges of Law and several Santa Barbara–area universities. As a civil trial lawyer, Roden handled dozens of water, environmental, condemnation, and real property law cases. Prior to that, he was the twice elected District Attorney for Santa Barbara County.