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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 4:20 pm | Fair 63º


Letter to the Editor: When It Comes to Measure P, Misinformation Abounds

Last Monday, Sept. 8, a defining feature of the dialogue surrounding Measure P was again on display: The Yes and No campaigns called for an end to their opponent’s misinformation and went on to contradict each other. Both sides continue to insist the other is not telling the truth (that about sums up politics as we know it!) and issue opposing statements, particularly on how the measure will affect current fossil fuel operations that use high-intensity extraction techniques. I would like to address some of the issues being raised.

First, can we please stop referring to the staff report presented to the county Board of Supervisors on June 13? One confusing line in the report misleadingly implied that the measure might apply to well maintenance, in which acids are used to clean a well; pretty much any well drilled into the earth and intended to be used for years on end needs this procedure to remain unclogged.

This is where the implication that the measure will affect all current operations stems from. This confusing line was the very reason that the Board of Supervisors voted to reject this report. It was a unanimous decision; even Supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino, who have both stated they oppose Measure P, agreed to not accept the report that continues to be quoted by No On Measure P supporters — for the very reason it was rejected.

Yes, the Water Guardians used the term “fracking” as a buzzword to quickly publicize the Healthy Air and Water Initiative. Steam injection, fracking and acidizing all share the need to pump vast amounts of water underground and involve toxic chemicals that can spill and seep into water supplies. They are also sometimes used in conjunction with one another; it is simpler to lump them together under a single term.

We know this state is in severe drought, and we know water is precious! There is currently no prohibition on fracking or other high-intensity techniques in the county. If the oil industry can get three of five votes from the Board of Supervisors, they can do whatever they want.

Most of the controversy surrounds existing operations using high-intensity techniques and how this measure would affect them. The initiative itself and the exemptions ordinance proposed by the county’s Planning and Energy Department very clearly exempt vested rights (Land Use & Planning Code 35.50.040 — A.3.), which is the legal term for existing, “non-conforming” operations. A non-conforming land use is considered to have a vested right to continue operating if it has obtained a valid building permit and has incurred substantial liabilities relying on the permit (meaning that construction/drilling has begun based on the issued permit). Clearly, all existing operations qualify and will be safe if Measure P passes.

Less than a third of current fossil fuel operations in this county use high-intensity techniques, but thousands of wells are expected to begin using them in the near future.

“By incurring substantial upfront expenditures based on existing zoning and preliminary approvals, a developer takes a ‘calculated risk’ that the rules of the game may change[1] … The courts in California have determined that the interest of a developer in proceeding with the development of its property should be assigned low priority on the scale of affected rights, and therefore can be offset by a relatively moderate compelling need[2]."

Arlo Bender-Simon
Isla Vista

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