Friday, April 20 , 2018, 5:41 pm | Fair 60º


Harris Sherline: Standing on Principle

The time has come for compromise on new oil drilling, the best solution for our financial woes

Everyone I know admires people who are willing to stand on principle in making important decisions. However, there are times when common sense dictates that we compromise.

Harris Sherline
Harris Sherline

It’s possible to be so intractable in matters of principle that we are willing to “go down with the ship” when they are clearly wrong. That is the situation with environmental purists, who are largely responsible for preventing California and Santa Barbara County from drilling for oil.

That the state of California is broke is beyond dispute. The numbers vary from various sources at various times, but there is no question that California is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. And, for purposes of this commentary, who’s at fault doesn’t really matter either. In addition, Santa Barbara County is also broke. Perhaps not teetering on the brink of bankruptcy — although I suppose that could be a possibility at some point — but certainly with a budget that’s upside down and that promises to get worse.

Most people have been focused on budget cutting as the solution. The latest round of hearings by the county Board of Supervisors included a parade of department heads testifying to the plight that deep budget cuts would produce: closing facilities, terminating employees, reducing services to the public, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum.

In a June 16 Daily Sound article, “Board of Stupes,” Loretta Redd commented: “Here in Santa Barbara County, our board members all but genuflected when expressing support for public safety. But when budget restoration dollars were handed out, a jaw-droppingly stupid preference of tax money, led by the nascent Doreen Farr, went to the Department of Planning and Development over that of the district attorney. ... Not only was Planning and Development allocated a restoration to its $17.36 million operating budget, it was given $443,000 when assistant department chief John Baker had only requested $275,000! ... Maybe code enforcement of fluorescent light bulbs or improperly installed sprinkler systems is more important than having adequate legal protection for the entire county. ... Maybe the weather here is so nice that residents and tourists throughout Santa Barbara County just aren’t bothered by punks loitering and fighting, drunks urinating in public, from State Street to Isla Vista, or folks driving under the influence, writing bad checks in Lompoc or shoplifting in Santa Maria, or domestic violence in Vandenberg Village.”

What’s the solution to the financial mess in California and Santa Barbara County?

Stretched to near the breaking point financially, there is an answer: oil. I know “oil” is a dirty word to the environmental crowd, and my purpose here is not to argue the case, other than to point out that intractable opposition to any drilling, anywhere, anytime, forever, may be OK for those who can afford to be purists. But, it strikes me that it borders on irrational when public safety, schools and social services are being jeopardized for lack of funding.

Two situations illustrate the point:

» Tranquillion Ridge Project (off Lompoc): “The governor’s proposal would ensure that four oil platforms, which would otherwise remain off the coast of Santa Barbara indefinitely, and two oil processing facilities will be permanently removed in 14 years and bring $1.8 billion in new revenue to the state over the same period. If approved, the proposal will result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the protection of nearly 4,000 acres of significant lands in Santa Barbara County.” (News Blaze, June 2).

» Offshore drilling: “The left’s campaign against oil development is well known. According to the Energy Information Administration, liberals in Congress are preventing an estimated 19.1 billion barrels of oil from being developed in our Outer Continental Shelf and another 10.4 billion barrels from being developed out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. ... While liberals in Congress are forcing less oil production at home, the world is busy drilling at every opportunity. Brazil, whose beautiful beaches rival or surpass anything in California or Florida, recently discovered a huge underwater oil field and is moving quickly to being drilling. In Asia, China and Japan were able to put aside centuries of mistrust to come to an agreement on how to drill and share oil in waters between their countries.” (The Heritage Foundation, Morning Bell, July 24, 2008).

To continue blocking new drilling in the continental United States and offshore, when we are stretched financially without any relief in sight, strikes me as more than foolish, especially at a time when we are close to financial collapse at almost every level of government.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who has lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog,

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