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Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 9:24 am | Fair 56º


Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce Outlines Opposition to Measure P

Citing the damage Measure P would inflict on Santa Barbara County's economy and vital public services, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce announced on Wednesday its opposition to the November ballot initiative that would shut down on-shore oil and gas production in the county.

"Measure P is a deceptive, poorly thought-out initiative that will harm Santa Barbara County, particularly by damaging our economy and undermining the solvency of local government," said Glenn Morris, president and CEO of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, which represents employers and businesses in Santa Barbara County's largest city and surrounding region. "Measure P supporters claim that it will ban 'fracking,' which is neither true nor necessary, since no one is using or proposing to use this method in Santa Barbara County. The simple reality is that hydraulic fracturing of the Monterey Shale formation in California is not technically feasible.”

What Measure P will do, however, is shut down existing onshore oil and gas production in just a few years.

“The chamber board is very concerned that Measure P will shut down existing on-shore oil and gas production, which will eliminate almost 2,000 good-paying jobs and cost the county millions in revenues to fund vital public services like schools and fire and police protection,” said Tim Ritchie, chamber board chairman.

Morris noted that onshore oil and gas production has been carried on safely in Santa Barbara County for more than a century, and is a critical part of the local economy. An impartial analysis prepared by Santa Barbara County found that Measure P would prohibit 100 percent of the production techniques safely being used in active oil and gas wells. There is no evidence over the course of a hundred years that these techniques adversely impact our water supply or our environment.

"The people of this county can't afford this economic shock of shutting down on-shore oil and gas production," Ritchie said. "Measure P would deliver a body blow to our local economy.”

Morris pointed out that an economic impact report prepared by the UCSB Economic Forecast Project in September 2013 for the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, found evidence to clearly illustrate and underscore this point, including:

» The total economic impact of the onshore oil and gas industry on Santa Barbara County in 2011 was $291.4 million and can be as large as $402.1 million.

» The industry had a total impact on Santa Barbara County's employment of 1,953 jobs in 2011, including 958 direct jobs with an additional 1,005 jobs created indirectly.

» The onshore oil and gas industry is an important source of high-wage jobs in a community that is projected to predominantly add low paying professions in the near future. The average employee earns an annual salary between $75,000 and $100,000, in sharp contrast to the median household income of $58,000 in Santa Barbara County is 2011.

"The ripple effect of such loses of mostly well-paid blue collar positions would be felt by everyone," Morris said, "because the newly unemployed can no longer buy groceries, pay rent, buy clothes and otherwise contribute to the local economy.”

Morris pointed out that this economic loss also translates into less revenue for vital public services. According to Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller Bob Geis, local oil and gas companies will pay $20.3 million in property taxes in 2014. These taxes are allocated as follows:

» Approximately $12.7 million will go to schools.

» The county will directly receive $4.4 million into its General Fund to help provide essential public services.

» The county’s Fire Protection District will get $2.6 million.

» $.6 million will go to other special districts within the county.

» Local cities will receive $.3 million to provide services for education, health care, public safety, public assistance, public ways and facilities.

In addition to reducing tax revenue, legal experts predict a wave of lawsuits against the county from owners of mineral rights because Measure P will amount to a governmental "taking" depriving them of the use of their property.

"Experts believe the county’s liability for damages and litigation expenses could exceed $100 million,” Morris said. "The reasons for opposing Measure P are numerous, and the need for this deceptive initiative is non-existent."

Ritchie added: "The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce urges all Santa Barbara County voters to support our local economy and vote no on Measure P."


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