At a contentious San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson voted no on a resolution opposing offshore oil drilling that supervisors Lynn Compton and Debbie Arnold supported. Lacking a majority vote on the referendum, it failed.
Both Hill and Gibson argued that the wording of the proposed resolution was not sufficient and that the issue should be brought back at a future date. Gibson said he wanted to take a “different path forward” than the referendum proposed by county staff.
“Lets work with Hill to get a resolution that Hill can support,” Gibson said.
Four public speakers voiced their views on the referendum, with one who supported Hill and Gibson’s proposal, two who were in favor of offshore oil exploration and Dr. C Hite who was in favor of adopting the resolution as written.
“The referendum is simply a clarification,” Hite said. “Showing you are willing to communicate with the federal government is not a problem.”
Hill and Gibson both voiced their objections to wording in the proposed resolution that supported working with the U.S. Department of the Interior.”
“The County of San Luis Obispo is opposed to any expansion of oil and gas exploration or extraction off our coastline,” the proposed resolution says. “The County is available and willing to work with the Department of the Interior in the development of an offshore energy plan that provides for needed energy while ensuring protection of our important natural resources.”
On March 7, 2017, the board sent the federal government a letter signed by supervisors Hill, Gibson, Compton and Arnold, stating the county’s objection to offshore oil drilling. Supervisor John Peschong recused himself because of a conflict of interest. The letter included verbatim the paragraph Hill and Gibson objected to on Tuesday.
“We all four voted to send the exact letter to the Secretary of the Interior,” Arnold said. “It is nonbinding, but reflects what the public wants today, that we are opposed to offshore oil drilling.”
Hill then snapped at Arnold who reminded him that she was speaking.
“I let you talk,” Arnold said. “Do we need to take a break.”
Arnold then made the motion to approve the referendum opposing offshore oil exploration, which failed by a 2-2 vote with Hill and Gibson dissenting. Supervisor John Peschong is in Sacramento on county business.
In February, Charles Varni asked the board to support the Surfrider Foundation’s resolution against offshore oil. At that time, SLO County Counsel Rita Neal voiced concerns that her department had not had an opportunity to verify the accuracy of statements made in the group’s resolution. Even so, Gibson supported adopting the Surfrider Foundation’s resolution.
“I believe this board should be on record against offshore oil,” Gibson said in February. “A clear and strong statement that offshore oil development threatens us in an unacceptable way would be an important bit of leadership for our constituents.”
Gibson then made a motion to bring a discussion of the Surfrider resolution back at the next board meeting. He did not receive a second and the motion died.