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Santa Barbara City Council Shows Symbolic Opposition to New Oil Drilling, Fracking

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday voted 6-1 to send a symbolic message that it supports a ban on new drilling and fracking, and a phase-out of all oil and gas extraction along the Pacific Coast.

Mayoral candidate Councilman Harwood “Bendy” White and his political ally Councilman Jason Dominguez proposed the resolution to “protect the coast from oil and gas drilling.”

Councilman Frank Hotchkiss, who is also running for mayor, opposed the resolution and the political nature of the proposal.

“I have a great appreciation for petroleum products,” Hotchkiss said. 

“If you want to live an oil-less life you can do it,” he told the crowd at the meeting, which had many UC Santa Barbara students in attendance. “It’s not going to be comfortable, but you can do it. Do it now.”

White and Dominguez said it was important to take a stand, particularly in light of President Donald Trump's administration's views on climate change and global warming.

“These are extraordinary times and we don’t have leadership on this issue right now,” Dominguez said. 

“It’s not an imaginary threat. It is a real threat. When you are doing oil production there is a real harm. When you eliminate oil production you eliminate real harm.”

He said the only losers in the conversation were special interest groups who lobby politicians for favors.

“This is not a symbolic gesture,” Dominguez said. “This is something that can help save lives locally.”

White said Santa Barbara is “the center of environmental awareness. These days where we need to head is away from petroleum development.”

Longtime Santa Barbara resident Bonnie Raisin said White and Dominguez’s proposal felt like a political football.

“We are talking about an industry that has been here a long time,” Raisin said. “We need the jobs and we need the income from natural gas and oil and they can coexist with the new forms of energy.”

Hillary Hauser, executive director of environmental group Heal the Ocean, said she supported the resolution.

“It sends a powerful message that Santa Barbara is not going to get pushed around by nobody,” Hauser said.

Councilwoman Cathy Murillo looked out at the room full of millennials and said, “There are a lot of young people and I don’t want them to think it is too late. Please don’t lose hope.”

Councilman Randy Rowse supported the resolution but said he worried the group would be deluged with proposed resolutions since the political season has started — the City Council and mayoral election is in November. 

“I don’t want to keep doing this,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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