In what was likely the most expensive election campaign ever waged in San Luis Obispo County, 55.7 percent of local voters rejected Measure G, a proposed ban on fracking and oil expansion on county lands, according to unofficial election night results.
After qualifying for the Nov. 6 ballot with more than 20,000 signatures, Measure G faced an opposition backed by $8 million from the oil and gas industry. At the core of the "no" campaign was the claim that the measure would shut down existing local oil operations—a message reinforced by innumerable mailers and advertisements that were pushed across the county.
"We're obviously pleased with the results," said Matt Cunningham, spokesman for the No on G campaign. "We always thought if we presented voters with information about the real impacts of Measure G, they'd come to the right decision, and they did."
Measure G backers vociferously denied the measure would've shut down existing operations—arguing that it banned just new oil drilling and fracking—but Yes on G campaign co-chair Charles Varni told New Times his group lacked the resources to effectively counter their opponent's rhetoric.
"It scared people and it was all fundamentally based on mistruths that we did not have the capacity to respond to in a meaningful way," Varni said, adding, "This really wasn't an exercise in democracy. This was never a level playing field."
The fight over oil and gas in SLO County isn't over. Varni said the organization that pushed the measure, The Coalition to Protect SLO County, is poised to challenge any proposed expansion of local oil production.
"There will be no proposals made that we will not be challenging," Varni said. "We are in the fight."