A Santa Barbara County Fracking Ban Initiative ballot question is on the November 4, 2014 election ballot for voters in Santa Barbara County, California.
If approved, this measure would prohibit what are called “high intensity” oil and gas operations such as fracking, acid well stimulation treatments and cyclic steam injection. The measure would not impede conventional drilling or “low intensity” operations. The group called the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians filed its initiative and a notice of intent to circulate with the Santa Barbara County Registrar on March 23, 2014, and planned to officially kick off the petition drive at an event on April 5, 2014. They needed 13,200 valid signatures before May 7, 2014, to qualify the initiative for the November ballot. On May 1, 2014, the group turned in about 20,000 signatures. Out of the 20,000, the Santa Barbara County Elections Office found 16,000 signatures to be valid. On June 13, 2014, the Santa Barbara County Supervisors voted unanimously to put the initiative on the November ballot, rather than enacting it directly.
Similar initiative efforts were announced shortly before this Santa Barbara measure in San Benito County and Butte County.
Text of measure
The official initiative ballot title for Measure P:
|“||Initiative to Ban “High-Intensity Petroleum Operations” including but not limited to Well Stimulation Treatments and Secondary and Enhanced Recovery Operations such as Hydraulic Fracturing, Steam Injection and Acid Well Stimulation Treatment on all Lands within Santa Barbara Count’s Unincorporated Area||”|
The official initiative ballot summary for Measure P:
The proposed Initiative amends Santa Barbara County Comprehensive Plan policies and the Santa Barbara County Code to prohibit the use of any land within the County’s unincorporated area for, or in support of, High-Intensity Petroleum Operations, including but not limited to onshore exploration and onshore production of offshore oil and gas reservoirs. The proposed Initiative states that the prohibition, if adopted, would not apply to onshore facilities that support offshore exploration or production from offshore wells. The prohibition also would not apply to off-site facilities or infrastructure, such as refineries and pipelines that do not directly support High-Intensity Petroleum Operations. The prohibition would apply in any zoning district within the County.High-Intensity Petroleum Operations are defined by the Initiative to include well stimulation treatments and secondary and enhanced recovery operations such as hydraulic fracturing, cyclic steam, waterflood or steamflood injection and acid well stimulation treatments.
The proposed initiative authorizes the Board of Supervisors to grant an exception to the application of any provision of the Initiative if the Board of Supervisors finds, based on substantial evidence, that both:
The provisions of the proposed Initiative would not be applicable to any person or entity that has obtained, as of the effective date of this Initiative, a vested right pursuant to State law, to conduct a High-Intensity Petroleum Operation as defined by the Initiative.
The proposed Initiative provides that the Board of Supervisors must take all steps reasonable necessary to enforce the Initiative and defend it against any challenge.
Comprehensive Plan policies and County Code provisions amended and adopted through the Initiative may only subsequently be amended or repealed by the vote of County voters.
The group behind the initiative is called the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians.
The San Francisco-based Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP law firm drafted the initiative language. This firm was also responsible for the text of the initiative currently being circulated in San Benito County.
Other supporters of the initiative include:
- Community Environmental Council (CEC)
- Sierra Club (Santa Barbara Group, Los Padres Chapter & Sierra Club California)
- Environmental Defense Center (EDC)
- System Change Not Climate Change (Santa Barbara Chapter)
- Get Oil Out! (GOO)
- Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN)
- Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice SB chapter
- Santa Barbara Citizens Planning Association
- Carpinteria Valley Association
- Summerland Citizens Association
- Santa Ynez Valley Alliance
- League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
- Nurses for Social Responsibility
- UCSB Environmental Affairs Board
- 350 Santa Barbara
- Center for Biological Diversity
- Food & Water Watch
- Democratic Party of Santa Barbara County
- United Automobile Workers (UAW 2865 Santa Barbara)
- Santa Barbara Coucilmember Cathy Murillo
- Santa Barbara Councilmember Bendy White
- Santa Barbara School Boardmember Monique Limon
- Santa Maria Councilmember Terri Zuniga
- Goleta Mayor Pro Tempore Paula Perotte
- Goleta School Boardmember Susan Epstein
- Former Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum
- Former Goleta Mayor Margaret Connell
- Former Carpinteria Mayor, Dick Weinberg
- VP Goleta Water District Board & President, Cachuma Operation & Maintenance Board, Lauren Hanson
- Democratic Party of Santa Barbara County
- Green Party of Santa Barbara
Arguments in favor
Proponents of the measure argue that fracking and other high intensity oil extraction methods have dangerous and harmful side effects such as:
- wasting precious water needed by California
- potentially causing earthquakes
- polluting water sources and air
- chemical side effects inimical to the health of county residents and animals
Rebecca Claassen, a member of the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians, said, “Using these technologies, the petroleum industry would gain increased access to oil resources lying below our homes, farms and natural areas. The impacts and risks associated with high-intensity petroleum operations are too great for Santa Barbara County residents to accept. In order to protect local resources and interests, we want to prohibit this land use before it further endangers human health and the environment in Santa Barbara County.”
On April 22, 2014, System Change Not Climate Change, an ecosocialist coalition which promotes Marxism, officially announced their partnership with The Water Guardians to canvass UCSB and Santa Barbara County for petition signatures.
—Rebecca August, initiative supporter and petition circulator
Dennis Allen, owner of Allen Construction and employer of 120 workers, wrote an opinion piece featured by the Lompoc Record in which he argued in favor of Measure P. Below are some excerpts from his article:
Just as construction is a cyclical industry, petroleum extraction is even more of a boom-and-bust industry. Ninety-eight percent of the industry jobs are in drilling, and most of these jobs are taken by non-locals who have specialized expertise. These are short-term jobs, as we have seen in places where these high-intensity extraction technologies have been employed on a large scale, such as Pennsylvania and North Dakota. This kind of employment does not sustain itself and, therefore, is not healthy for our county.[…]
Measure P does not impact any of the existing petroleum wells or production, nor any of the jobs that are a part of this activity. It only impacts the future of high-risk, high-intensity wells that we don’t need as we shift to renewables.
New high-intensity wells using fracking, acidization and steam injection would be moving us in the opposite direction from the sensible path along which we are trending. If anything, we need to accelerate our adoption of clean-energy projects and technologies. Fortunately, Santa Barbara County is ideally situated to lead the clean-energy transformation, with abundant sunshine, ocean currents and wind.
I recently took a trip around the perimeter of Santa Barbara County. The second evening, I deviated 20 miles into Kern County and spent the night in Taft, a major oil-producing center for the past 80 years. I was shocked. It is an unsightly wasteland. I would not wish such blight on any place, certainly not on Santa Barbara County.
Supporting Measure P will preserve the natural beauty of our county, keep our economy vibrant, and move us along the path to a sustainable, clean energy future.
—Dennis Allen, owner of Allen Construction
- No on Measure P, the Santa Barbara County Coalition against the Oil and Gas Shutdown was formed by opponents of Measure P.
The following also oppose the measure:
Organizations and Associations:
- The Coalition of Santa Barbara County Taxpayers, Consumers, and Energy Producers
- Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce
- Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce
- Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce
- Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau
- Santa Barbara County Cattlemen’s Association
- Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriff’s Association
- Santa Barbara County Firefighters Local 2046
- Peace Officers Research Association (PORAC)
- The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) #413
- U.A. Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 114
Community, Civic & Business Leaders:
- Jim Boles – Retired Professor of Earth Science (UCSB)
- Peter Naylor – Professor of Finance and Economics, Santa Barbara City College
- Ricardo Magne – High School Science Teacher, Santa Maria. 2013 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year. Recipient of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators.
- Don Oaks – President, Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association
- Brooks Firestone- Former California State Assemblyman
- Marianne Strange – Air Quality Consultant, M.F. Strange & Associates
- Jim Thomas – Former Santa Barbara County Sheriff
- Willy Chamberlain – Rancher & Former County Supervisor
- Dale Francisco – City Council Member, Santa Barbara
- Frank Hotchkiss – City Council Member, Santa Barbara
- Gregory Gandrud – Former Carpinteria City Councilman
- Douglas Imperato – Consulting Geologist
- Frank Banales – Executive Director, Zona Seca
- Rebecca Gowing – Rancher & Member of Santa Barbara County Cattlewomen
- Roy Reed – 6th Generation Rancher and Mineral Rights Owner
- Glenn Battles – Third Generation Rancher, Los Alamos Valley
- Brandy Branquinho – Rancher
- Geoff Banks – Retired, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office
- Maria Aguilar – Community Liaison, Santa Maria Bonita School District
- Cynthia Hadidian – School Teacher
- Andrea Fields – Registered Nurse
- Jason Reynolds – Agent Owner, State Farm Insurance
- David Peu – Software Engineer
- Lawrence Smith – Controller
- Shawn Hanshew – Crane Operator
- Daniel Urquhart – Electrician
- Javier Vargas – Truck Driver
- David Shahrabani – Owner, DMS Electric
- Shawn Lytal – Iron Worker
- James Eudy – Owner, President, Sunshine Metal Clad, Inc.
- Steven J. Vogt – Mechanic
- Danny Lau – Data Technician
- Adrianne Cortez – Office Manager
Opponents of the measure argue that Measure P is masquerading as a ban on hydraulic fracturing, while the initiative would actually result in shutting down the onshore oil and gas industry in Santa Barbara County.
Andy Caldwell of the Coalition for Labor, Agriculture and Business spoke extensively against the initiative, both responding to arguments from proponents and speaking about its potential harm to the economy. He made the following statements:
—Andy Caldwell of the Coalition for Labor, Agriculture and Business
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, said, “Any reduction in domestic oil production here means more dependence on foreign oil. We should be looking for ways to encourage more domestic production of oil and jobs that go with it rather than passing laws that reduce our domestic energy production.”
Ken McCalip, a retired principal/superintendent and a North Santa Barbara County native, wrote the following article on July 29th, 2014. It was posted in the Santa Maria Sun and argues that the initiative is severely flawed, poorly written and costly. Ken McCalip contends that the measure is ambiguous and would inevitably lead to years of expensive litigation. It also expresses the fear that the initiative would shut down the oil industry, killing hundreds of jobs and harming the county’s economy. An excerpt of the article is below:
|“||It will impact more than 300 high paying jobs and will be a hit to our economy as it ripples through the county with the loss of additional service jobs. The breadth and ambiguity of this Measure P proposal will in effect shut down our oil industry, and its impact will be severely damaging to our entire county economy.After a careful reading of Measure P, it is apparent that major ambiguities exist that could plunge our county into years of legal conflict at taxpayer expense. The issues run the gamut from violation of property rights under state and federal laws to infringement of vested property rights amounting to an unconstitutional taking prohibited by the United States Constitution. No clear standard for exemptions is provided in the measure, which could also lead to legal entanglements. One could understand a reasonable regulation of how fracking is implemented based on scientific facts, but this goes far beyond reason and is not in our best interest. The breadth and ambiguities in this proposal deserve a “no” vote and a move back to the drawing board.||”|
—Ken McCalip, author of an opinion piece posted by the Santa Maria Sun
Bob Poole, a spokesperson for Santa Maria Energy, claimed that the initiative proposed by the Water Guardians is just an attempt to curtail oil production and is not actually about fracking. He pointed towards California Senate Bill 4, statewide legislation on oil extraction practices, as the best way to address the contentious issue. Poole, referring to the Water Guardians, said, “Good decision making should be based on objective facts and science. They need to follow the science-based approach the governor and the state of California are taking on this issue, there is a scientific study underway … why don’t they get behind that instead of trying to jump ahead of science?”
The following reasons to vote against Measure P were presented on the website of the Santa Barbara County Coalition against the Oil and Gas Shutdown:
|“||Santa Barbara County families, businesses and taxpayers are uniting to urge NO on Measure P because it would:
—Santa Barbara County Coalition against the Oil and Gas Shutdown
- The Lompoc Record released an editorial condemning Measure P as an anti-oil, industry-crippling initiative masquerading as simply an anti-fracking measure. An excerpt of what the Lompoc Record editorial board wrote is below:
Indeed, if voters pass Measure P, it would set up the case for an outright ban on the hydraulic fracturing method of extracting petroleum products from deep under ground.But 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.
Measure P clearly is an attempt to misrepresent the reality of a situation, and typical of so many recent ballot initiatives, claims to do one thing while actually doing something else entirely.
Don’t fall for it. The oil industry has been active in this county for generations, and there have been mistakes. But the technology is vastly improved, the risks to the environment diminished — and Santa Barbara County needs this important segment of the economy to remain viable.
—Lompoc Record editorial board
Californians For Energy Independence has contributed over $300,000, from May 18, 2014, to June 30, 2014, to oppose Measure P. Californians For Energy Independence is funded by several oil and gas companies, including Chevron and Houston-based Freeport-McMoran.
Reports and analyses
The University of California Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project undertook a study of the economic impact of onshore oil and natural gas extraction in Santa Barbara County for the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2013. Using a type of economic forecasting known as IMPLAN modeling, the study measured the impacts of fossil fuel extraction in Santa Barbara County. Studies that use IMPLAN modeling usually measure both direct impacts, i.e. the jobs and income being added within the oil and gas industry; indirect impacts, i.e. jobs created throughout the supply chain; and induced impacts, i.e. jobs created through increased spending due to growth in the industry. The study found that:
- While the industry is a small contributor to overall county employment, the average employee’s salary ranges from $75,000 to $100,000.
- The industry contributes $1.13 million to 240 nonprofits across the county annually.
- In 2011, the industry had an economic impact of $103 to $142 per barrel of oil produced.
- The total economic impact, including direct, indirect and induced impacts was $291.4 million in 2011.
- The industry pays $49.2 million in federal, state and local taxes annually.
According to the study, the oil and natural gas industry, “has a significant impact on Santa Barbara County’s economy through its purchases of intermediate inputs, investment in new structures and equipment, and employment within the county.”
Bonnie Queen, one of the analysts who worked on the report, stated that, according to data provided directly by the companies, the number of direct employees for oil and gas businesses amounted to 336. This represents 0.1 percent of the approximately 250,000 jobs in the county.
The reported impacts of $291.4 million represent 1.64 percent of the county’s total GDP of approximately $17.75 billion in 2011.
The Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation: The Western States Petroleum Association commissioned the Los Angeles Development Corporation to conduct a study on the gas and oil industry in California, including several subregions. The LAEDC study concluded that the petroleum industry on the Central Coast is a substantial source of jobs and an economy-boosting element. However, the study used very broad metrics for calculating the economic impact. the report states, “The total estimated economic contribution includes direct, indirect and induced effects.” Oil and gas industry “workers, as well as the employees of all the industry’s suppliers, spend a portion of their incomes on groceries, rent, vehicle expenses, healthcare, entertainment, and so on. The recirculation of the original expenditures multiplies the initial spending through these indirect and induced effects.” The report featured the following conclusions:
—Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation
The study considered not only oil and gas extraction and transportation, but also retail sales of gasoline at gas stations when calculating jobs, tax revenues and economic impacts. As it is unlikely that the initiative would have any substantial impact on sales on gasoline in the county, these jobs, tax revenues and economic impacts should be unaffected by the ban.