As Election Day approaches on Nov. 4, Measure P seeks to initiate a moratorium on the practice of “high-intensity petroleum operations” that include acid-well treatments, steam injection and hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking.
Filed by the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians, the initiative circulated with the Santa Barbara County Registrar in March and a petition drive for the initiative kicked off in April. The group acquired the necessary 13,200 signatures by May 7, and by June 13, the Santa Barbara County Supervisors voted unanimously to put the initiative on the November ballot. Since then, supporters and critics of Measure P have been advertising widespread testimonials for and against the proposed legislation.
CALPIRG UCSB chapter chair and third-year economics major Rob Holland said the main problem with fracking is that it wastes a great deal of water during the process.
“Fracking uses an enormous amount of clean, drinkable water that then becomes toxic afterwards,” Holland said, “We’re in a drought and we can’t afford to give that up.”
Wes Adrianson, co-founder of Students Against Fracking and a second-year civil environmental engineering major at UC Berkeley, said the re-injection happens well below the groundwater supplies. Citing a recent study by the State Water Resource Control Board, Adrianson said 11 of the wells in California are contaminating clean water aquifers, and many more are being investigated.
“Fracking is a very dangerous operation with consequences for our groundwater which are often misunderstood,” Adrianson said. “We do not have the regulatory framework to ensure [they] all operate safely.”
However, Professor of Earth Science James Boles, who has been a community leader with the No On P Coalition, said the language of the Measure P ballot is ineffective and problematic for voters because the wording is not specific.
“The writing is too broad and too vague. Measure P includes methods that have been used safely for decades,” Boles said. “It’ll definitely shut the industry down in a couple years because of the way it’s written, despite what others may say.”
According to Stacey Boles, who has been featured in No On P advertisements and is a UCSB graduate with a Ph.D. in Geology, regardless of some individuals preconceptions about the oil industry, passing Measure P would result in halting land oil and gas operations, thus hurting Santa Barbara businesses.
“The effect of the tax revenue is felt countywide,” Boles said, “but it’s not just the tax revenue and jobs. There are a lot of indirect economic effects to the community.”
But according to Holland, jobs associated with fracking are not permanent and do not help the local economy.
“The long-term management jobs will stay but those don’t help our county, those don’t help locally,” Holland said, “They only help people up top.”
According to Adrianson, by continuing to burn fossil fuels and expand oil extracting capabilities in California, the state is “standing at hypocritical odds” with goals towards reducing emissions.
“People are becoming more and more aware of the impacts of extreme fossil fuel extractions and the necessity to curb these extractions in order to fight climate change,” Adrianson said.
Holland agreed and said the state can no longer rely on unsustainable methods such as fracking to acquire gas and oil.
“I don’t think that using these fuels and saying ‘Let’s use them in the meantime while we’re working towards clean energy,’ is a viable argument because it just prolongs using dirty energy,” Holland said.
Adrianson also said the measure’s impact is not limited to Santa Barbara and has a huge impact on the “statewide campaign.”
“We’re watching very closely because we know if we can get fracking banned in Santa Barbara County that gives us more leverage statewide with Governor Brown and with the state legislature,” Adrianson said.
But according to Boles, changing how we acquire fuel and use energy sources will be difficult to suddenly change.
“What’s in your tank?” Boles said. “It isn’t as easy as just turning off the tap on oil. It’s simply not realistic to expect things to change overnight. The infrastructure isn’t there.”
Adrianson said he urges voters to seek more information on fracking, acid well stimulation treatments and cyclic steam injection.
“I encourage everyone to vote … and make sure oil interests do not come before the interests of the environment and the interests of people in the Santa Barbara County,” Adrianson said.
[Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly equated acid-well treatments and steam injection with hydraulic fracturing. Each of these three processes are actually different oil extraction. The article also incorrectly stated that the measure, if approved, would also impact off-shore oil operations. The measure actually states that it would not impact off shore operations if adopted.]
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.