There are many ways to win an election; you can argue the facts, organize, and/or have a better message or campaign. Any and all of these are perfectly acceptable; but there is one strategy that should not be acceptable, that is trying and gag anyone whose opinions you may not like.
That’s what happened Tuesday when representatives of the Coalition to Protect San Benito, formerly known as San Benito Rising, asked the board of supervisors to refuse to allow a presentation by the California State Department of Conservation on the history and, more importantly, the current law regarding well stimulation in California.
Logically, one of the key elements impacting oil or gas recovery by stimulation has to be current state law, especially the recently enacted Senate Bill 4 (titled, Oil and gas: well stimulation), that deals directly with the subject of Measure J and was signed into law in September, 2013 by Governor Brown. SB-4 did not just squeak by legislature; the final vote gained overwhelming support. The bill was approved by the State Assembly 54 to 20 (73 percent) and the State Senate 29 to 9 (76 percent); supermajorities in both cases and it had the enthusiastic support of the governor.
Since SB-4 requires extensive environmental protections, comprehensive scientific investigation, analysis, and recommendations it is a very good contrast to Measure J which offers only the radical path of a complete ban on all enhanced fossil fuel recovery. SB-4 is not something made up to oppose Measure J, it has been state law for 11 months, but the supporters of Measure J do not want the state to come here and explain the protections provided by SB-4 because they oppose the reasonable solution, so they oppose the law and call the state agencies that implement it “biased.”
No matter their current name, Measure J supporters are certainly within their rights to oppose SB-4, but it is the law and many of the issues regarding enhanced recovery are addressed directly. The Board of Supervisors owes it to the citizens to have a neutral party explain the law as it now exists and the protections it affords, amd does not afford – the idea that Measure J supporters can demand the board gag the state is outrageous.
Understanding that their gag request might not go through, the Measure J supporters have also asked for “rebuttal time” if the board does not ban the state. I have sat through years meetings of the board and scores of presentations and never gotten any rebuttal time – the supporters should get exactly what everyone else gets, 3 minutes per person. Why are they special? What is there to “rebut” – the law is the law – they certainly can comment.
They are perfectly free to take the public presentation and ciriticize it on their own time, not a special time at the board. They spend a ot of time demeaning state agencies, this will be another opportunity. If the Measure J supporters get rebuttal time than those elements who oppose Measure J must get equal time too – another rebuttal. That is why board meetings do not have rebuttal sessions.
The principle is simple, a realtively new state law exists, SB-4. Measure J would supersede much of that law. The state agencies and employees are politically neutral by statute, but they can explain current law and future impacts – the people of San Benito County should have the benefit of understanding the current law before voting to essentially overturn it.. The board owes it to the voters to receive a presentation from the state. Bowing to political pressure to gag the state agency responsible for this vital area would be irresponsible. Let’s hear what they have to say under the board’s regular rules.