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Tuesday, November 20 , 2018, 4:22 am | Overcast 49º


Big Oil, Environmentalists Throw Money at Measure P Fight

Big money is going into the fight over Measure P, Santa Barbara County’s proposed ban on high-intensity oil and gas production methods that include fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, isn’t used locally right now, but active wells do use other methods that would be banned by Measure P, according to county staff.

Both sides of the initiative accuse the other of misinterpreting the ban’s impacts, saying it would or would not affect existing oil production.

Proponents are concerned about petroleum production’s impact on the environment and an increase in permit applications for additional wells in Santa Barbara County.

Yes on P supporters include advocates from the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians, which initiated the measure, and financial backing from several major local donors.

In late September, the campaign was given $50,000 donations each from two Montecito men, Richard Mazess and Stanley Tomchin. Its totals are now in the range of $196,000.

On the other side of the battle are oil companies that see a threat to the local oil industry, which companies say would hurt profits, jobs and annual county tax revenues.

Some companies pursuing permits for new wells have threatened the county with litigation and contributed money to fight Measure P, including ERG Resources.

As of Friday, the No on P campaign had received about $1.95 million.

The campaign being managed by the legal firm of Nielson Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni of San Rafael, and the campaign’s biggest donor by far — the Californians for Energy Independence, Including Energy Producers — is run out of the same office.

According to Secretary of State records, this group received $1.8 million in total contributions from oil companies for the first half of 2014, and has been spending Measure P-related money in Santa Barbara County since May.

In September, the group directly contributed $1.6 million to oppose Measure P and another $29,000 in early October.

Other contributors to the No on P campaign include Pacific Coast Energy, Santa Maria Energy, Venoco, ERG Operating Company, the Associated Builders and Contractors Central California Chapter PAC, and Aera Energy.

The fund left over from the Santa Barbara County infrastructure measure that failed in June, Measure M, donated $4,000 to fight Measure P.

Absentee ballots were mailed out Monday for the Nov. 4 election, and Santa Barbara County voters can register to vote through Oct. 20, according to the County Elections Office. The last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot is Oct. 28.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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