SLO County residents debate banning fracking, oil wells on the Central Coast
Maybe you want to make sure fracking never happens in San Luis Obispo County. Or you want to phase out local oil production because you’re concerned about climate change or groundwater contamination.
Whatever the reason you support Measure G — if you do — you should know that it will probably cost taxpayer dollars.
Skeptical? Just look what happened in Monterey County.
That county spent nearly $1 million defending Measure Z, which banned fracking and new wells in unincorporated parts of the county — as Measure G proposes to do.
Oil industry interests sued Monterey County after 56 percent of the voters there approved the measure in 2016, arguing an unconstitutional taking of mineral rights. The case is still tied up in court.
That would likely happen here.
The same companies that sued Monterey County — Chevron USA and Aera Energy — are funding the No on Measure G campaign.
Authors of Measure G wrote it in a way to try to dodge the same legal constitutional issue as Measure Z: The measure gives the county authority to issue exemptions and allow certain new wells. But San Luis Obispo County Counsel still anticipates litigation, funded from county coffers that are built up with your tax dollars.
There would also be another cost to the county. Tax revenue from oil profits would decline, eventually.
If Measure G passes and withstands a tough legal challenge, oil companies would produce less and less oil locally until recovery using current methods and routine maintenance is no longer feasible. As oil production profits decline, so too will jobs and tax revenue to San Luis Obispo County.
The No on Measure G advertisements imply that the loss of revenue would be immediate. They liken the economic loss to that of the upcoming Diablo Canyon power plant closure. Not quite.
The oil industry was assessed $2.3 million in taxes in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, less than 1 percent of all assessed taxes, according to a fiscal impact statement by the San Luis Obispo County auditor-controller. Taxes paid on oil revenue make up 0.283 percent of total school funds, 0.113 percent of the county general fund and 0.004 percent of total city funds.
By comparison, government agencies will likely lose about $26.75 million in annual revenue once Diablo Canyon closes. The power plant employs nearly 1,500 people.
Despite what the No on Measure G advertisements imply, the loss of oil revenue would likely take years or decades. The same is true of the potential impact to local oil industry jobs, which number approximately 32 to 76, according to the county’s fiscal impact statement.
Measure G could also result in savings by reduced risk of costly environmental damage caused by oil extraction, the statement said.
Ultimately, it’s up to voters to decide if Measure G is worth it.