By Mark A. Diaz
The Grover Beach City Council chose to remain neutral on the San Luis Obispo County proposition Measure G-18, during its latest meeting on Sept. 17. The vote concluded in a 4 to 1 motion with Councilmember Mariam Shah dissenting.
Measure G was brought forth by a citizen petition to stop injection mining (also known as fracking) and oil field expansion among other petroleum gathering related activities in the unincorporated areas and coastal zones of San Luis Obispo County. The petition that was widely circulated by the Coalition to Protect San Luis County gathered 20,473 signatures from registered voters. The measure follows in the footsteps of initiatives from Monterey and San Benito counties who both passed laws banning fracking and related gas and oil extraction activities Measure Z and Measure J respectability.
Before the public comment time started, Mayor John Shoals reminded everyone to be civil and allow for all opinions to be heard. Faced with an abundant amount of speakers, Shoals limited each person’s speaking time to two minutes. Each speaker presented their case respectfully and without interruption from the other side.
Opponents to the measure came out in force with most insisting that jobs would be lost if the proposal succeeds. One of the first to address the council was Patrick Vowell, environmental specialist for Sentinel Peak Resources which operates the Price Canyon oilfield, who stated that the measure would lead to the closing of the plant and requested a proposal to be created against Measure G.
Make no mistake,” said Vowell, “despite measure proponents toting that it will continue to allow the field to operate, I can assure you as can anyone who knows about operating an oil field, the restrictions imposed by this measure will in fact shut us down over the course of the next few years.”
“The bottom line about measure G is that it will shut us down,” said Christine Halley, director of environmental health and safety of Sentinel Peak Resources.
Supporters of the ban focused on protecting the local water table in a time where “drought has become the new norm,” as one supporter put it.
Speaking on behalf of the Coalition to Protect SLO County, Domonique Dashwood said, “The highest goal of measure G is to protect our groundwater quantity and quality.” She went on to say, “Those who support the measure do not wish to see a very small group of people profit substantially while jeopardizing the water and quality of life of all the people in San Luis Obispo County.” She stressed to the council that the ban is not the oil and gas shutdown that the opposition claims it is and said the measure was “written specifically” to avoid job loss.
Mayor Pro tem, Jeff Lee stated that, despite his personal opinions on the topic, he believes that the City should remain neutral while Shah likened the discussion to the Phillips 66 oil-by-rail fight when supporters claimed that jobs would be lost if the County did not allow crude oil to be shipped through the county.
“I just keep hearing the mantra ‘If you don’t allow this, we’re all going to lose our jobs,’” said Shah, “but then to my knowledge, nobody did.”
At the time of this article, San Luis Obispo is the only city in the county to adopt the resolution in support of Measure G.