In Rejecting Fracking Ban, Santa Barbara Voters Choose Science over Scare Tactics
Last night, voters in Santa Barbara County soundly rejected a measure intended to shut down part of California’s oil and gas industry by a margin of 26 percentage points (63 percent to 37 percent). A diverse coalition of public safety, agriculture, faith, business, local government and taxpayer organizations had worked hard to educate the community about the economic costs that such a ban would impose – not just in Santa Barbara County, but indeed throughout the state.
Touted as a measure to ban hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the Santa Barbara Country ballot item, Measure P, was designed to motivate other local jurisdictions to ban a routine well-completion technique. San Benito County (population 50,000) did pass a measure to “ban” fracking, which anti-fracking activists will likely celebrate, even though the county has no significant oil and gas development. Mendocino County, which has zero active wells, also passed a purely symbolic anti-fracking measure.
Santa Barbara County energy production, on the other hand, is an important part of the economic backbone of the region, supporting thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars in wages, and tax revenues. It’s worth noting, however, that no fracking currently takes place in Santa Barbara County because the county’s geology is unsuitable. The fact that the campaign to shut down energy development in Santa Barbara focused so much on “fracking” reflects how activist groups are increasingly using hydraulic fracturing – a limited part of the development process – as a front to stop all oil and gas development.
This isn’t the first time Californians have rejected anti-fracking measures. California legislators have consistently relied on the consensus of independent scientists and state regulators that banning development is unnecessary. In two separate occasions, California legislators have soundly rejected bills that would have banned fracking outright or placed a moratorium on the practice.
California voters in areas with significant energy production have also shown time and again that they understand the importance of the state’s oil and gas industry and the hundreds of thousands of jobs, and billions of dollars in economic activity, it supports.