Voters in Ventura County, or all unlikely places, reject limits on oil and gas production.
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, June 17, 2022
Is the progressive tide in California starting to recede? Voters in San Francisco and Los Angeles last week repudiated soft-on-crime policies. In two local referenda that drew less attention, voters in coastal Ventura County northwest of L.A. rejected new restrictions on oil and gas development.
The county Board of Supervisors in November 2020 approved two land-use amendments that would have erected new regulatory barriers to drilling for energy producers with decades-old permits. Drilling is primarily regulated by federal and state governments. But counties in California can impose additional regulations.
Ventura County’s Board of Supervisors in recent years has limited new oil and gas drilling within 2,500 feet of schools. Such restrictions don’t apply to 80 older permits. The board’s vote in November 2020 would have done so and thus threatened to shut down oil and gas production in many of the county’s 34 active fields.
The new rules would have threatened 2,000 or so workers whose jobs depend on the oil and gas industry. They also could have cost mineral rights owners up to $50 million in royalty and leasing payments, and local schools and public safety tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue. But perhaps Tesla drivers might have enjoyed a more scenic cruise up Pacific Coast Highway.
The changes were put on ice after energy companies qualified two referenda for the June 7 primary ballot. A majority of voters had to approve both measures to keep the board’s rules in place. Progressive activists warned that drilling threatened the state’s climate goals and public health though they offered no concrete evidence.
About 53% of voters rejected the climate campaign. Ventura is far from Trump country, and 59% of its voters backed Joe Biden in 2020. While the county is relatively affluent, about 43% of residents are Hispanic, and they have been turning against California’s climate regime that raises energy costs and kills working-class jobs. This is one reason the state Air Resources Board is considering changes to the state’s electric-vehicle mandate.
“This may be Ventura County’s fight, but it’s a defeat for the whole country,” moaned an activist with the green outfit Food & Water Watch, which campaigned heavily for the referenda. If the climate left is losing support even in California, the reason is that its radical solutions have lost touch with economic and climate reality.