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Oil companies are pouring money into San Luis Obispo County’s fracking vote

SLO County residents debate banning fracking, oil wells on the Central Coast

The San Luis Obispo County, California, Board of Supervisors discussed an initiative to ban new oil wells and fracking to be placed on the ballot in November 2018. Residents from across the Central Coast debated at the June 19 meeting.
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The San Luis Obispo County, California, Board of Supervisors discussed an initiative to ban new oil wells and fracking to be placed on the ballot in November 2018. Residents from across the Central Coast debated at the June 19 meeting.

Petroleum companies have far out-spent environmental groups and local activists campaigning on a measure to ban fracking and oil expansion in San Luis Obispo County — at a rate of more than 7 to 1.

With less than two months until residents vote on Measure G, the campaign effort against the initiative has reported receiving $732,500 in monetary and non-monetary contributions from oil companies in comparison to the $100,200 received by the campaign that supports the measure, according to campaign finance disclosures filed as of Sept. 11.

The amounts raised by each side don’t necessarily reflect community support; The Stop the Oil and Gas Shutdown campaign reported contributions from three donors, all of which are petroleum companies.

Take a look around the Arroyo Grande Oil Field located between Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo. It has been in operation for more than a century.

Sentinel Peak of Englewood, Colorado, which owns and operates the Price Canyon Oilfield in the South County, contributed $500,000 to fight the measure. California Resources in Los Angeles contributed $225,000. Chevron, which owns wells in the eastern part of the county, is also supporting the campaign against the measure with non-monetary contributions.

While the campaign in support of Measure G — Coalition to Protect San Luis Obispo County — has received thousands of dollars in contributions from dozens of local residents, businesses and organizations, it too has support from a larger institution: Tuscon, Arizona-based environmental group, The Center for Biological Diversity. The center has contributed $39,180 in non-monetary contributions, including polling and advertising time.

The campaign also received contributions from Consumer Advocates for Safe Food and Water, sponsored by Food and Water Watch.

Both Big Oil and Big Green have poured money and time into similar campaigns up and down the state in the last few years.

It’s likely that giving and spending will continue to ramp up in SLO County as election day nears. Oil companies spent more than $5 million opposing a similar measure in Monterey County that was ultimately passed by voters but is now tied up in court challenges.

What are they spending it on?

Large chunks of cash spent by the No on Measure G campaign go to campaign consultants and public affairs companies, including more than $25,000 to the strategic political consulting firm that employs county Supervisor John Peschong, Sacramento-based Meridian Pacific.

Other expenditures reported so far include $1,800 in airfare, $2,000 to the Hilton Garden Inn in Pismo Beach for meetings and $6,600 for data files. The campaign also reported spending on media, legal consulting and printing.

The campaign in support of Measure G has spent significantly smaller amounts of money, like $400 to print flyers at UPS in Arroyo Grande, $400 for room rentals at the San Luis Obispo City-County Library, and miscellaneous expenditures for online donation processing fees, pizza, Facebook ads and printing and office supplies, including $8 for rubber bands.

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Monica Vaughan: 805-781-7930; @MonicaLVaughan
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