Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 1:22 pm | Mostly Cloudy 68º

 
 
 
 

Letter to the Editor: Vote Yes on Measure P, Because My Dad Would Say So

I want to put this out in the world of Santa Barbara County. I don’t know everything about anything, but I do know a bit about science, and the history of our area. I also call among my friends and family people who make their living working in the oil industry; they are good people, made of all the right stuff, and I respect their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So, I am going to get personal with you all, in this land that we share and call home. You should vote yes on Measure P, because my dad would say so ...

When I think of my dad, I love to look at the black and white picture of him playing football with friends on the Sands below Isla Vista in 1960. It is one of those old pictures that gives you the year in the white border. But it was 1969, the year that I was born, that I really try to imagine what he was doing.

The same year that our ocean and shoreline were covered in black, gooey oil from Jalama to Rincon. When a gargantuan oil spill that lasted for months, from a burst pipe off Platform A, covered from Point Conception to the Ventura County line. I wonder if he joined others in our community in scooping gooey tar into jars, and sending those jars to each and every member of the United States Senate. Not a very romantic task, but someone had to speak up and be the force of good, commit to protecting our coastline and all the life that comes from it.

Our lives are very much dependent on the health of our oceans and freshwater — on our access and availability to fresh, clean water, which you lump together with the global climate crisis. Yes, climate change is a very real issue that we are reminded of daily with the weather report, or as my friends joyously surf and swim with no wetsuits. Our oceans have never been warmer. But it is the local issues we must be focusing on, protecting our water supply, because it is nothing less than protecting our way of life, and all of our livelihoods.

Have you read about the towns in Texas where their taps ran dry? Yes, no more water comes out when you turn on the faucet. Livestock being sold off — before they die, hopefully. But it is hard to find buyers for agricultural goods when the drought is everywhere. Do you think Santa Barbara is immune from issues of drought, or that it just couldn't happen here? Of course not, because it already is here. We are in the third year of a drought, with no certain relief in sight. Is it all just too much too believe? Read for yourself: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/11/texas-tragedy-ample-oil-no-water or http://www.peoplesworld.org/texas-towns-run-dry-as-private-water-trumps-public-need/.

Of course, that we are in a climate crisis is the overriding scientific consensus — and fracking produces greenhouse gases at more than four times the rate of the old methods of gas extraction — something like 97 percent of the scientific community agrees; it is no longer a question of debate. Yet there are scientists (in that 3 percent) whose profits derive from the oil industry itself, who speak in front of government committees, testifying about the science of their practices. Interestingly enough, one of these scientists, with money from the oil industry, was a founding member of the geology department at UCSB, and his face and name is one appearing on the No on P materials (http://www.geol.ucsb.edu/DeptHistory/DEPT_HIST_ms.htm). Obviously, they must have more scientific data about the practice of fracking and high-pressure steam injection, or acidization.

The main thrust of their argument is that the language of Measure P, which amends SB 4, is unclear and therefore open to litigation. The language can only be as clear as the science is possible to present, and in a field of an evolving science, we need to be able to amend the laws to protect ourselves. This is what Yes on P does. Please read for yourself: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140SB4.

The language is not any more susceptible to legal challenge than any piece of legislation. All legislation is open to legal challenge; it is part of our checks and balances, a founding principle of our government. It is that way to protect the people from those who would seek to profit at their expense. Furthermore, the oil companies have been claiming the exact concoction of chemicals they use, are trade secrets, or “proprietary,” thus they don't need to tell us exactly what they are injecting into our ground and water (http://www.willistonherald.com/most_recent/fracking-company-considers-revealing-secret-chemicals/article_0af28f9a-ccb3-11e3-af07-001a4bcf887a.html).

You say that a measure like this should only be a last resort. I would counter that this is a last resort. Do you think the oil industry will self-regulate? Sacrificing great profit, for the good of the community? I thought about writing a letter to my oil friends asking: If you don’t frack, then why don't you come out in favor of P? It would be a huge gesture, which would garner you great support from the community, you could actually be stewards of our environment. But as my geneticist, marine-science friend pointed out, it is because they want to frack, they want their "due" profits, no matter the cost to the surrounding neighbors and livelihoods, or the future costs to humanity.

Dad taught me to think scientifically, question the data, make choices based on facts rather than opinions, and to understand bias and seek to recognize your own, and when you have exhausted all the facts, you follow your gut. When we are operating in complete honesty, when all factors are transparent — we do know — it is something elemental in being human. We instinctually want things to be fair, we know what is right. And when we are trying to discuss these matters, where science and life and self-interest come together — we need to speak in plain English. Never should we use science or data to overwhelm clear-thought, or to deceive people into doing something. Why would we vote to allow something we know is not good for us?

Fracking is not good for us, Santa Barbara, for our water, for our bodies or for our planet.

It is, as you point out, good for the oil industry’s profits. And I fear we have a case of the means justifying the ends, but the ends, the profit, is short-lived and not as much as they would have you believe.

Tammy Merritt
Santa Barbara

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