Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason

Measure G means litigation

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Measure G-18, which would ostensibly ban new oil production and the introduction of "fracking" in the unincorporated areas of SLO County, is an exceptionally bad law with severe economic consequences and potential legal precedent for county residents.

If it passes in November, expect its proponents to be further emboldened to propose ever more stringent environmental restrictions upon local residents. The first consequence of course will be the certain lawsuit that will be funded by the taxpayers to defend Measure G. Property owners affected by Measure G restrictions stand to lose millions of dollars in property value as their mineral rights to the oil under their land will be rendered worthless.

Similar lawsuits have been filed elsewhere with significant economic consequences for local jurisdictions on other environmental issues. For instance you can expect the same eco-groups to renew their efforts to shut down the off-road vehicle riding areas located in Oceano Dunes, which if successful, would cost South County business communities millions of dollars in annual tourist revenue. Wine tasting rooms aren't going to make up the volume of business that the off-road vehicle crowd brings to SLO County.

A side effect of such emboldened litigants might be lawsuits against the county for harm caused by the ill-effects of wind-driven particulate matter from the dunes. Litigants might demand that the county compensate them for health damages, at which point county attorneys may consider it's time to condemn the Trilogy development as unsafe for human habitation, at least in areas identified as being within high concentrations of a dust plume that cannot be mitigated. A principle in hazard reduction is if you can't remove the hazard from the people, you remove the people from the hazard. No doubt this would cause Trilogy property values to plummet, and the state would likely make its usual bottom-dollar offers to compensate displaced homeowners. Blowing dust is already an element of required disclosures in real estate sales in the area.

Some demands might be more on the nuisance level, such as banning the use of wood-burning fireplaces. However, natural gas is a "greenhouse gas" and therefore might not be acceptable as a replacement. Other fads of the past might re-emerge, like during the 1970s energy crisis. The governor might decide that outdoor security lighting must be minimized and recreational lighting, such as Christmas decorations, could be banned entirely. Sound ridiculous? President Carter did exactly that during his one-term presidency in the late 1970s along with imposing national maximum highway speed limits of 55 mph. That wasn't popular but it stuck around for years.

The people proposing Measure G-18 are on a mission, a crusade to save the planet, especially from people like you and me, since we just don't get it. If we object to the newest version of environmental religion, we are called climate deniers, similar to those who deny the Holocaust against the Jews that occurred in WWII.

Measure G proponents are quite earnest in their desire to shut down the use of fossil fuels in California, indeed, across the nation. Billionaire Tom Steyer is leading the crusade with millions of dollars contributed to candidates and initiatives adopting his radical environmental agenda. His agenda will impoverish millions of middle-class people and leave the working class and working poor financially devastated. Measure G proponents ignore the fact that fossil fuels provide 97 percent of the transportation energy we use in California and are required to back up the electrical grid and alternative energy power systems. For every alternative energy plant generating electrical power there is a fossil fuel plant on stand-by to prevent the grid from collapsing.

Proponents of Measure G play on irrational fears of "fracking," a process not used nor proposed for use in San Luis Obispo County. It isn't necessary. They also claim that existing oil wells won't be affected, except they will. When you lease an oil field you aren't simply drilling one well. When oil pressure drops in a well, it's required to drill another well within your lease area to compensate. That new well requires a permit, and under Measure G, no new drilling permits will be issued. That's why Measure G will shut down oil production in SLO County, not today nor tomorrow but within a few years. The economic cost will be hundreds of head-of-household jobs lost, millions of dollars in lost economic activity and a significant hit to the property tax base in the county. Those are the taxes that pay school teachers, police officers, and firefighters and contribute significantly to local city/district budgets.

It will also whet the appetite for further extreme measures, especially litigation. We can't afford more extremism in SLO County. Don't be fooled and don't take an unnecessary financial risk: Vote no on Measure G-18.

Al Fonzi is an Army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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