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Weighing Harm and More Harm

Should the County Let ERG Add 250,000 Metric Tons of CO2 to the Atmosphere?

Open letter to 1st District Supervisor Das Williams and Planning Commissioner Michael Cooney:

We in California know, by painful experience, the new realities and real problems caused by Climate Change, including more destructive forest fires, mudslides, and more frequent drought. And you, Das, have spoken often and eloquently about our need to take it seriously and meet this challenge now. Commissioner Cooney, I hope and presume you may hold similar beliefs and convictions.

Big tobacco companies knew for decades that their product sickens and kills. Yet, they covered up the facts, spent millions to confuse the issue in public discourse, and lied until they could lie no longer … until the truth became too obvious to too many people and until they were successfully sued for billions of dollars.

As with most of us, you have likely had relatives, friends, and neighbors who have died from the harmful effects of tar in cigarettes. Organic chemicals that share molecular characteristics with this poisonous and cancer-causing substance are also found in huge quantities in and around oil company operations.

Today, Das and Michael, there are companies in another large and powerful industry that want to expand dramatically in our county. They too have attempted to hide the facts about the harm done by their operations. They too spend millions to muddy the public waters and to influence lawmakers. And they too will continue to do this until we say, “No.” Until you say, “No.”

As you well know, our County Planning Department recently completed a final report on ERG’s proposal for massive new drilling in Cat Canyon. It clearly states that it would add “250,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent” to our atmosphere. Think of the harmful effects. Try to imagine an additional 550 million pounds of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere, right here, each year, if this one company is granted permission. And, of course, there are other companies waiting in line to do the same.

Further, and of critical importance, Supervisor Williams and Commissioner Cooney, consider the possible mitigation of just this one Class I impact. Would a plan to reduce by over 99 percent or to thoroughly compensate for this greenhouse gas dumping be truly verifiable and enforceable over the long life of the project? Or is this, too, a convenient tactic and contrivance, just as low-tar cigarettes were for tobacco companies?

Honestly, how could we be sure about any claimed mitigation and how could the oil companies be held appropriately accountable if they failed to fully deliver over the 30 to 50 years of the project? With another clever declaration of bankruptcy, they could easily survive and try to drill here again.

Please continue to help move our county forward in smart, healthful, and sustainable directions, in ways that really bring jobs and that benefit our economy. Vote to reject these projects. After all, while they don’t bring in much new employment or tax revenue, they do cause significant problems and present thoroughly unacceptable risks.

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