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Community split over the future of oil industry in Santa Barbara County

Flickr member Mike Baird

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors has ordered a report to detail how a ban on specific methods of oil extraction would affect the local economy, and any legal ramifications that might stem from implementing such a ban.

The board will meet again next month in Santa Maria to finish discussing the proposal, and whether it will end up on this November's ballot.

If passed by voters, the ban would target newer forms of oil and gas extraction, including fracking.

Earlier this month, the group Santa Barbara County Water Guardians submitted far more than the 13,200 verified signatures needed to get the issue before the supervisors.

Several members of the public speaking at Tuesday's meeting asked the board to submit the initiative for extensive study to the county staff,  like Roy Reed, a north county resident who said his family had large land holdings with oil developments. Specifically, Reed said he was concerned about "fiscal impacts on the county, and the social impacts on the many people that rely on the oil industry for their income and their livelihoods in the county."

Others were passionate about how the initiative could protect Santa Barbara County from another oil disaster. 

"I speak for those of us who can remember the disastrous impact that oil operations have had on our environment, and I also speak for the young, who by their involvement claim the right to a safe and prosperous future—not doubling down on the dirtiest fossil fuels," said Jim Taylor of Carpinteria on behalf of the Water Guardians.

Board Chair Steve Lavagnino commended the Water Guardians for their passion and ability to collect the necessary signatures in such a short period of time. However, he also made it clear that he believes selling the initiative as a fracking ban is deceptive.

Members of the water guardians said they expected Tuesday's outcome, and are now waiting to see what will happen on June 13 at 9 a.m.