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SLO County voters to decide future of local oil drilling with Measure G

Posted at 11:40 AM, Oct 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-17 14:40:16-04

Among the local measures on the November ballot is Measure G.

Measure G would ban oil companies from digging any new wells in the unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County. It also prevents them from expanding the ones already in use.

The group “Coalition to Protect SLO County” aims to protect the environment in the area.

“We want to protect our precious groundwater quality and quantity from threats of expanded oil production,” said Charles Varni, co-chair of Coalition to Protect SLO County.

That means sites like the Arroyo Grande Oil Field can stay, they just can’t grow.

“They are allowed to continue,” added Varni. “It says that in black and white in Measure G. They are allowed to do their maintenance, to continue their production.”

The activist group gathered more than 20,000 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.

They’re worried about possible groundwater contamination, a risk that can come with extraction.

Currently, fracking isn’t used anywhere in the county, but Professor Bwalya Malama, who teaches groundwater and soil biosciences at Cal Poly says it could be used down the line.

“The Pismo formation overlies the Monterey formation and the Monterey formation is mostly shale which is pretty tight and that requires fracking to be able to exploit the reserves,” Professor Malama explained.

Opponents of Measure G say banning expansion would eventually hurt the economy once wells dry up.

“The oil field would become economically unfeasible as oil wells shut down and you couldn’t keep them going and that would throw 230 people with good-paying head-of-household jobs out of work,” argued Matthew Cunningham, Communications Director for “No on Measure G”.

If passed, it is likely tax revenue would take a hit.

“It will lead to a loss of $2.3 million in local tax revenue per year and that will be a big hit to local schools,” Cunningham added.

According to a fiscal impact report from the county’s auditor-controller, the oil industry generated about $1.5 million for education and more than $600,000 to the county’s General Fund.

If measure G is passed, the county expects a slew of lawsuits to follow and San Luis Obispo County residents will pick up the tab.

If 51 percent of voters vote YES, the measure will pass.

You can read the full measure here.