Using people as a buffer not a good idea

Santa Maria planning commissioners said “no” to new senior housing and “yes” to employment-generating land-use designations in a recent straw poll.

In an informal request by Coastal Community Builders, commissioners were asked whether they would be in favor of changing the zoning on part of Area 9, a total of 884 acres between A Street and Black Road, and between Betteravia Road and the railroad tracks.

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Answering questions about climate change

Human-caused climate change - myth or reality?

Why are we even debating this? And why is it important to us on the Central Coast?

For the past 100 years, scientists have believed that burning fossil fuels might increase Earth's average surface temperature. Decades of research has proven this, according to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the organization set up by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to advise the government on science, engineering and medicine. Members serve in the organization only if they have distinguished themselves and continue to conduct original research.

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Implement plan for sustainable communities

Congratulations to the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments for adopting the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan & Sustainable Communities Strategy.

Now, cities and county, we hope you'll follow its principles.

SBCAG recognized how important land-use decisions are, not only to the efficient operation of the transportation system, but also to the environment, public health, safety, social equity and a thriving economy.

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SM Energy: Mitigate, move forward

Santa Maria Energy is champing at the bit to get final approval to expand by 110 wells its 26-well pilot project in the Orcutt Hills.

That stands to reason. The expanded project is expected to produce more than 3,000 barrels of crude oil a day. With prices at around $100 a barrel, there is potential daily gross revenue to the company of over $300,000.

That approval is delayed because the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission directed staff to analyze stricter greenhouse-gas emissions standards for the project, to reduce the impact on climate change.

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The effects of fracking -- a realistic look

            In a recent column, James Murr sounded the alarm about the potential for renewed oil production within the city of Santa Maria. He referenced a Times article about Area 9 being considered for oil development and cited an article in another publication that reported on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” contaminating aquifers and triggering earthquakes.

            Murr has good reason to be concerned.

            In a letter to the editor, another writer said Murr need not worry because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (by 2009) had not documented any cases of groundwater contamination related to fracking; there are ample regulations in place to protect our environment from the impacts of oil and gas production; and the Monterey shale underlying the Santa Maria Valley is already naturally fractured.

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Taking part in the process

The recent Times’ editorial, “Help draw blueprint for future,” may have left readers with the impression that local residents are disinterested in the long-range transportation plan prepared by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, because just one person came to a recent workshop.

The workshop was, in fact, a public hearing, and was held near the end of a long planning process. Although just one person testified, a total of 11 people attended the hearing.

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Funding a commitment to renewable energy

In my May 10, 2013 Santa Maria Times editorial about proposed new oil drilling in the Orcutt Hills, I wrote that renewable energy should be subsidized as the primary energy source for our future. Another editorial writer in The Times asked how this would be funded.

Answer: the same way energy technologies of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries were funded – by the federal and state governments. As the emerging technology of the 21st Century, renewables should be subsidized the way other energy technologies have been throughout U.S. history.

In the late 1700s, Congress enacted a tariff to protect the fledgling coal industry from British imports, giving American producers a major cost advantage. Pennsylvania exempted coal from taxation, publicized its advantages, and conducted geological surveys showing companies where it was located. By 1837, 14 states had followed Pennsylvania’s lead.

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Energy: Can we find common ground?

          The Economic Alliance of Northern Santa Barbara recently hosted the California Energy Summit in Buellton. Environmental advocates rubbed shoulders with oil producers.

          One panel focused on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, and efficiencies that reduce the use of fossil fuels. Some speakers and members of the audience argued against subsidizing development of alternative fuels, instead favoring increased production of fossil fuels.

          Many of us used to think we needed to wean ourselves from fossil fuels because our supply would last only a few decades. As we learned at the Buellton conference, the supply is greater than ever, because of relatively new enhanced-extraction techniques, such as hydraulic fracturing and cyclic steaming. A lot of it is here in the United States, especially in the Monterey shale of the Central Coast and San Joaquin Valley.

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SB CAN honors community leaders

The Lompoc Co-op Development Project is giving the Lompoc community a vision and hope for the future.

Members of a local church brought together community leaders and professionals of different faiths who share the same values and desires for economic renewal to help their economically stressed community.

Their first goal has just been realized —  launching the Green Broom Brigade, a worker-owned, green, cleaning firm. A second co-op business enterprise will be studied later this year.

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Community garden offers food connection

            Imagine this: You take a basket to your garden and pick lettuce, tomatoes, celery, carrots and scallions. You take the ripe and delicious vegetables and create a salad for your family made of tasty and healthy ingredients.

            Sure, it’s simple. Yet most of us don’t do this. Even though we live in a major agricultural region, most of the produce we consume has been grown elsewhere and harvested before it is ripe and treated so it can endure the miles and days of travel to warehouses and on to supermarkets before it even makes it to our homes. These foods are often bland. Kids don’t want to eat these fruits and vegetables because there isn’t much taste to them. Heck, we don’t like these bland foods, either.

            Then there are the concerns about genetically modified seeds, chemicals and contamination. Add it all up, and many fruits and vegetables from the supermarket lose their appeal.

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Santa Barbara County Action Network
Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN) works to promote social and economic justice, to preserve our environmental and agricultural resources, and to create sustainable communities.