Measure P, the hotly contested ballot initiative that would ban fracking and other high-intensity petroleum operations in Santa Barbara County, was defeated easily and early by voters Tuesday night.
Final results showed Measure P failed, with 62.7 percent opposed to 37.4 percent in favor, or 51,547 votes to 30,732 votes.
Measure P, known formally as “The Healthy Air and Water Initiative to Ban Fracking,” would have prohibited fracking, cyclic steam injection and other high-intensity petroleum operations in the county’s unincorporated areas.
Proponents pushed the measure as a win for the environment, while oil supporters argued Measure P would eventually shut down current petroleum operations throughout the county.
After initial returns showed Measure P trailing badly, “No on P” supporters who had gathered at the Radisson Hotel in Santa Maria promptly declared victory and headed home early in the evening.
Jim Byrne, a spokesman for that campaign, said results showed the real interests of county voters did not mirror those of proponents who started the anti-fracking campaign.
“Tonight the ‘No on P’ campaign is greatly humbled by the election results, and we would like to extend our thanks to the citizens of Santa Barbara County,” Byrne said in a statement. “The citizens of Santa Barbara County have confirmed their support for this industry as an important part of our community, providing thousands of jobs and tens of millions (of dollars) in tax revenues each year for our schools, fire protection, and other vital public services.
“Voters also have clearly rejected this measure’s drastic approach to our energy policy, in favor of a balanced approach that includes producing energy locally and decreasing our dependence on foreign oil.”
Members of the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians, which created the initiative earlier this year by gathering the required number of signatures to put it on the November ballot, gave early concession-like speeches before 10 p.m. at the Piano Riviera Lounge in downtown Santa Barbara, where supporters were awaiting final results.
A loss was still a win in their books, since supporters say they helped start a movement that will continue on.
“We’re the people’s movement here,” said Water Guardians spokeswoman Katie Davis, who smiled as she looked around a packed restaurant. “Lots of bodies.”
“It’s not a big surprise,” she continued. “We’re being outspent 20-to-1. That’s particularly really hard to overcome. The fact that we kept up the momentum to the end says a lot. It’s really been an amazing experience. It’s really the beginning of something. This will continue in some form.”
She said the group would have to evaluate its options and decide how to move forward.
“Yes on P” campaign manager David Atkins said the group created a strong foundation despite a flurry of what he called deceptive ads, the costs of which were underwritten by energy companies.
“We’re very proud of the campaign we ran,” he said.