Drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara (photo: Steve Malone, Associated Press)
Opponents of a measure on the November 4 ballot to rein in enhanced oil and gas extraction techniques, like fracking, in San Barbara County are outspending supporters 20-1, according to Keith Carls at KCOY.
Carls wrote that opponents have raised $1,950,000, compared to $95,000 by supporters, but didn’t provide a breakdown on the figures. It’s safe to say that the oil and gas industry is a significant contributor to the “No on P” campaign.
Measure P is the brainchild of Santa Barbara County Water Guardians, a grassroots group that mobilized 300 volunteers to gather 20,000 signatures in three weeks to put the measure on the ballot. They want to limit oil extraction techniques that employ hydraulic fracturing, steam injection and well acidization in unincorporated county areas.
The controversy over the measure extends beyond the debate over whether the techniques, which have been around for awhile by amped up by new technology, are dangerous to the environment. The two sides aren’t even close to agreeing what the measure would ban.
Opponents say it is a total ban on fracking, etc. and is a stealth attempt to kill all oil drilling in the county. The official rebuttal to arguments in favor of Measure P say it would “ban common oil and gas production techniques used in 100% of the active wells.”
They paint a dire picture of lost oil revenues, unemployment (more than 1,000 jobs lost) and regional devastation (“$290 million in economic activity would be at risk”). The county would be “at risk for hundreds of millions of dollars or more in legal damages” and the nation would be more dependent on foreign oil.
Proponents say that is all nonsense. “The claims against Measure P are simply false,” they argue in the voter guide. “Existing oil and gas projects will continue to operate as usual and traditional oil and gas projects can still be developed.” They say the projections of financial hardship are based on a false premise.
Supporters just want to prevent the county from joining in on the rapidly expanded use of these controversial oil and gas drilling techniques nationwide, which have been largely responsible for the nation’s marked increase in drilling by making it possible to tap deposits previously out of reach.
They do so by injecting abrasive and toxic chemicals and materials into the ground using pressurized water and then redepositing much of the waste into separate wells. Critics say enhanced extraction is a danger to groundwater, causes air pollution and is linked to an increase in sinkholes and earthquakes.
California made its first attempt at regulating the practices last year with Senate Bill 4, which was criticized as taking too long to do too little. Critics would like to see a moratorium on fracking and the like until better regulations are in place and more information is available on what the environmental effects are.
So far, the public debate has been a bit lopsided. No on P is running ads on television, the internet and in print, along with direct mail appeals. The Yes on P campaign is not. They are canvassing neighborhoods, phoning people and sending out some mailers. Yes on P supporter Dennis Allen described it to KEYT as a “David and Goliath kind of struggle.”
It’s been more than a few millennia since the underdog won that fight.