Measure P proposes to ban new applications for high-risk oil production in Santa Barbara County. The purpose of Measure P is to prevent negative impacts such as toxic oil spills, permanently contaminated surface and ground water, increased local air pollution, new below-ground fractures increasing the risk of earthquakes, and expanded greenhouse gas emissions from happening in our communities.
Many local organizations and concerned citizens like me are endorsing Measure P to protect our communities from these impacts. Supporters include local water board members, nurses and physician’s organizations, teachers and school board members, businesses, farmers, and vintners.
Measure P is endorsed by civic advocates like the Citizens Planning Association, the Carpinteria Valley Alliance, and Santa Ynez Valley Alliance. It is supported by environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, EDC, and CEC, and by many political organizations including the League of Women Voters and the Democratic Party.
Among our elected representatives, there are five times as many who support the measure as oppose it, including our state senator, state assemblyman, many current and former county supervisors, and city councilmembers from Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Lompoc, and Santa Maria.
Clearly, Measure P has broad local support; however, it is opposed by a well-funded and highly organized campaign. Some say this is just another battle between South County environmentalists and North County business interests. Actually, the No on P campaign is led by an alliance of oil companies that want to expand risky oil development.
The Independent recently reported a huge disparity in campaign funding. The Yes on P campaign had raised about $284,000 from local individuals. In contrast, the No on P campaign had already raised $5,600,000, about 20 times as much, from the oil industry and their allies.
The No on P campaign is using this massive funding advantage to spread misleading propaganda. Their latest mailer claims Measure P will shut down nearly all oil and gas production and cost our county millions of tax dollars. This claim is simply not true. As County Supervisor Salud Carbajal has stated, “Measure P would allow existing oil operations and all new conventional oil production to continue while mitigating the air-quality impacts and public health risks associated with new high-intensity oil development.”
Therefore, it is hard to understand why The Independent recently aligned with the oil companies by recommending a “no” vote on Measure P. The Independent says if you believe “climate change is the most urgent issue,” support Measure P because it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the paper opposes the measure because the editors believe threats to our groundwater are “remote” and imperfections in the measure make it “susceptible to costly legal challenges” thus undermining “good governance.” Their argument has serious flaws.
First, the threats to our groundwater are not remote. For example, the California State Water Resources Board recently revealed compelling evidence that the oil industry has already illegally injected nearly three billion gallons of toxic wastewater into Central California aquifers.
As Goleta Water Board member Lauren Hanson reminds us, “The state agency charged with monitoring oil and gas activities is not staffed to deal with a massive increase in high-intensity oil activity, and it operates on a complaint-driven basis. That means that when something bad is brought to its attention, that ‘something bad’ has already happened. That’s not protection; it’s too late at that point.”
Second, avoiding litigation over our community’s right to regulate oil industry activities is not “good governance.” The oil industry always threatens to sue local governments that try to control their activities. If the oil companies do decide to sue, we must defend our right to control dangerous industrial activities in our communities. If there is a lawsuit, I expect many other Americans will join our fight against risky oil development.
We have a clear choice in this election. If we vote “no” on Measure P, the oil companies will pursue thousands of new wells, threaten our environment and water resources, and increase greenhouse gas emissions. If we vote “yes” on Measure P, the dirtiest, hardest-to-extract oil stays where it is, we protect our communities from contamination, and we do our part to combat climate change.
Measure P deserves your support whether you believe that climate change is the most important issue or not. Stop risky oil development. Vote for Measure P.
A California native, John D. Kelley is an award-winning architect and a former contractor. He holds a degree in economics, has worked in government and corporate settings, and led Adult Education classes. He advocates for true prosperity based on a vital economy, a just society, and a healthy environment.