Proposed Fracking Ban May Hurt Santa Barbara Liberals

A group called the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians qualified an initiative called Measure P for the county ballot in November. The measure would ban “high intensity” gas and oil operations such as fracking, oxidization, steam injection and other high-intensity petroleum operations. However, what once seemed like an easy passage in extremely liberal Santa Barbara County is encountering surprising opposition.

Proponents of Measure P state that oil production “creates blight that discourages tourism and technology” as well as “negatively affect[s] the value of adjacent properties and farms.” The Water Guardians further stress that very few jobs are created through fracking, and that water is wasted at the expense of “asthma and other chronic health problems.”

But according to PublicCEO, a coalition of residents, taxpayers and citizens, as well as small energy producers has organized to oppose the measure, because no fracking currently occurs in Santa Barbara and no one has applied for future fracking operations.

“Point A, we don’t frack here, so fracking isn’t an issue,” remarked Andy Caldwell of the Coalition for Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB) in an interview with local ABC News affiliate KEYT-3. “They are trying to take a campaign of hysteria and apply it to Santa Barbara County when we don’t have fracking here.”

The opponents of Measure P say the real intention of the initiative is to ban all existing, safe and traditional methods of extracting gas, and that the measure threatens to shut down oil production in Santa Barbara County. They claim all the County’s wells employ at least one technique included in the initiative’s language. 

As pointed out by the Lompoc Record editorial board:

Passage of Measure P would also do quite a lot more, and while its supporters aren’t saying a lot about those other impacts of passing Measure P, we feel morally and ethically compelled to shed some light on such a blanket prohibition. Briefly stated, passing Measure P would have devastating effects on the local economy. Because it’s not just a ban on fracking, but on all other forms of enhanced oil extraction, now widely and safely used in oil development.

Oil companies contributed $291 million to Santa Barbara County’s economy and employed several thousand workers last year. According to an economic impact report commissioned by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, these jobs pay workers an average of between $75,000 and $100,000 annually, far above the County’s median household income of $58,000. Santa Barbara County also collects over $16 million dollars in tax revenue from oil companies, and $10 million of that sum funds local schools. 

Many local elected officials in the wildly liberal county have thrown their support behind Measure P. But some others are now concerned that the economic toll will hurt tax revenues and the local economy.  

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors recently discussed the extent to which the initiative will expose the county to litigation, but still voted to send Measure P to the voters. Because they did not endorse the initiative, members of the Board received at least two serious threats of lawsuits.

Of the 3,144 counties or equivalents in the United States, Santa Barbara is ranked as the 58th most liberal. After measure P qualified for the ballot, the unemployment rate in Santa Barbara County jumped, according to the State Employment Development Department, from 5.4% in June to 6% in July.  

The liberal Measure P supporters may have hoped that it was oil industry jobs that were being cut. But of the 4,000 lost jobs last month, 2,800--or 70%--came from government.

For more information about the impact of liberal policies on jobs, please click on “Millennials Jobs Getting Outsourced to Their Grandparents."


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