Bruce Gibson orders a gag order on fracking opponents

May 25, 2014

OPINION By JEANNE BLACKWELL

Anxiously and proudly the students against fracking, Cuesta College and Cal Poly coalition, attended their first San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting in the middle of midterms and finals. The students delivered 750 signatures calling for a countywide ban on fracking and about 20 other persons from all over the county and local grassroots organization SLO Clean Water Action used the public form to deliver 3,500 plus signatures collected from county residents and farmers, people across the state and around the world, calling on the board to adopt a countywide ban on fracking.

frackI was one of the persons representing local grassroots organization SLOCWA standing with the students against fracking.
Bruce Gibson, chairman of the board, during a recess approached me. Why me in particular? I do not know.

He announced that too many people signed up to speak. I didn’t know what that meant. I did not know there was a limited number of people allowed to speak in the public comment segment. It’s not posted anywhere. Gibson further announced to me that only four people could speak and time is limited to three minutes each. I knew about the three minutes.

I was told we were limited to four speakers for the first time. I was stunned to learn this just minutes before we were due to make our presentation. Again, why was he giving me this information and not the entire audience?

Coming from the chairman of the board, I trusted this change was something of an official nature and compliance was the only option. There were more than four people who had signed up to speak. I was sure of that. I had no idea what was regarded as “too many.” I begged for more time. I begged that everyone be allowed to speak.

He was insistent, “No”, he repeated.

Five people I begged, 15 minutes I begged, my hands grasping his in desperation. Please, I pleaded. Reluctantly he nodded and agreed. I thanked him.

I only know Mr. Gibson as an official. When he approached us I assumed it was official business and from the request forms we filled out he knew why we were there. Also, we were all wearing tee shirts espousing to a countywide ban on fracking. There were other green tee shirts in the audience and I wondered if they were presented with the same directive from Mr. Gibson? And what about all the people who had filled out speaker slips? Were they all being informed of this sudden change that only five people total were going to be allowed to speak?

Public comment is an agenda item. Addition, subtraction, corrections to an agenda item must come in the form of an addendum which must appear with the agenda. This is how Item # 19 on May 20th appeared on the agenda.

“19. The general public comment period is intended to provide an opportunity for members of the public to address the Board on matters within the Board’s purview that are not scheduled on the current agenda. Individuals interested in speaking are asked to fill out a ‘Board Appearance Request Form and submit it to the Clerk of the Board prior to the start of general public comment. When recognized by the Chair, each individual speaker may address the Board and is limited to a MAXIMUM of three (3) minutes or a reasonable period of time as determined by the Board Chairperson.”

There was no addendum to this Item.

Telling us only moments before we were prepared to make our presentations that a total of five speakers were allowed to speak on this agenda item is an addition to item #19. Clearly an addendum was in order. No addendum was posted.

When the meeting resumed, agenda item #19, public comment was introduced, Mr. Gibson, rather than calling names from the submitted slips as was the usual procedure, he unexpectedly announced that five unidentified speakers will come forward, state their names and the time starts ticking. This was unprecedented. A point of order was in order. Where was county council? Where were the other board members?

The supervisors must have known that their constituents from their districts there to speak had just been indiscriminately culled by the chairman of the board. Every supervisor must have known that every person who filled out a request to speak form and will not be called, was served a gag order by the Chair. They had to know this. It is their job to know these things. It is county councils job to know these things and insure proper legal procedure is adhered to. Not a peep from anyone.

The chairman speaks for all the members. So unless a supervisor objects, county council or clerk of the board calls for a point of order to what the chairman is doing, it is assumed that it meets with their approval. Silence is consent.

We have to trust at this point that what is about to happen is legal and proper. Since those put in charge of making and enforcing the law are allowing this to proceed, then it must be legal with consent and with knowledge.

So here is how it all went down. When Mr. Gibson, who had approached us just moments before, looked in our direction and said “speakers step forward” we assumed this was our cue to do what he instructed us to do.

Heidi Harmon opened the comments, followed by three students, David Kooi, Cuesta, Andi Fieber and Lucas Carlow, Cal Poly, who spoke elegantly expressing their concerns about their future and the future of our environment while delivering 750 plus signatures from students calling for a ban.

I closed by delivering petitions from local farmers and residents, petitions signed by people from across the state and around the world, official letters from the board’s peers, the San Luis Obispo City Council and the Arroyo Grande City Council, calling on the board of supervisors to join us in adopting a countywide ban on fracking insuring our health, safety and well-being. I included a draft response to our request for their consideration in the interest of saving staff time which always seems a reason to delay action.

I had tied the petitions up in a gold bow and as I left the podium to deliver it to the clerk of the board across the room, when I hit the center of the room, I turned to the audience and rather triumphantly waved the petitions in the air. The entire room waved back. We are not allowed to clap or make noises in chambers. Raised hands is an accepted protocol to show approval. Every hand I could see was raised to the rafters.

Four other people did come to the podium. I honestly do not recall their names being called. But if they were, how did that happen? We were told there was only time for five speakers.

At the end of ‘public comment’ Mr. Gibson instructed staff to alert water resources Board and the planning department to look into the fracking issue. I do not think anyone knew what it was he was instructing them to do or how that was going to qualify as a response to join us in adopting a countywide ban on fracking. Nonetheless, everyone on the board nodded in agreement to Gibson’s instructions. No one objected. Silence is consent.

Gibson estimated that it would probably be several months before anything will get on the agenda.

I don’t think the Board gets it. I don’t think they were listening. It was like they had their own private agenda they were carrying out independent of what was taking place at the meeting. Calling on the water resources and the planning department was a totally inappropriate response to, ‘will you join us in adopting a countywide ban on fracking?’

I don’t think they got the message that we are telling them we do not want fracking in this county. And what we were asking from them was a vote to assure us that they share our vision of a safe, healthy, happy, livable and prosperous future.

Or, maybe they did hear us. Maybe they did know exactly what we were saying and they did respond. They responded with a lie. They told us we cannot speak. They told us they do not want to hear what we want. They told us they do not care. And how ironic is that? That is exactly the same message the oil industry has been sending to every community across this land. We can lie and we don’t care.

I want to thank the board. Now, we get it. We get that you don’t care and you can’t be trusted. And now it is our turn to respond in kind. We do care. A lot. And we will make lying, cheating and the stealing of our natural resources and quality of life a crime in this county. We will not be silenced. We will prevail.

Jeanne Blackwell has lived in San Lus Obispo for eight years and says that the entire board is responsible for Gibson’s action because no one on the board objected. CCN wrote the headline.


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Pelican1

Recently, a campaign sign was spotted that said the following:


G E T F R A C K E D


V O T E


B R U C E


kayaknut

Was Cherie McKee (Aspiro) carrying that sign, Oh, wait a minute you said “fracked”, my mistake……..


fishing village

Might have something to do with scheduling? Ya think?


rogerfreberg

What may be legal isn’t always right.


I have to confess that I always love seeing the looney left get whacked by their own people… but Mr. Gibson has an obligation to listen to the public… no matter how bad it makes him look at election time.


Freedom of speech, baby… it still rocks!


hijinks

It sounds as if Gibson handled this in a ham-handed way, but he’s right, and the writer wrong, that public comment can be limited. He did not violate any laws.


The law requiring time for public comment on items not on the agenda recognizes that if too many people want to speak, it could prevent the transaction of agendized business, and allows governing bodies to set limits. It sounds like that’s what he did. Perhaps by approaching someone wearing a group T-shirt he thought he was doing the potential speakers a favor by giving them a heads-up, but it would clearly have been better if before the break he’d announced, “We have 35 people who want to speak on fracking, but only time for 5, and perhaps the organizers can select those 5 during the break so we can move on with the agenda. Thank you.”


As for what happens in response to public comment, the writer seems quite confused, perhaps because of lack of familiarity with public process. The board cannot vote on anything not on the agenda. Since public comments are by definition not on the agenda, they cannot take any action or indicate intent to take any action on matters raised in public comment. What they can do is to give staff instructions to return to a future meeting with information or a plan or whatever. The writer seems confused about what staff were told to do, but in general it sounds like the board took the proper approach — telling staff to come back at a future date to discuss possible actions with the board.


As for thinking all the group needed to do was to descend upon the board one time, and all would quickly happen as they wished, that is politically naive. The group needs to send a few members to every board meeting, to speak repeatedly to the subject and turn up the heat. That will get the board’s attention, and may get things moving.


Good luck. But get informed about how things get done if you really want to accomplish anything. Rather than calling the board chair names and making silly accusations based on your own misunderstanding, make an appointment with him or your own supervisor and ask how you should proceed. Build rapport, not hostility. That’s what the developers do — and they’re very effective.


Jeanne Blackwell

Agenda item # 19. Public comment. How is that not an agenda item?


rickholliday

WHAT A BUNCH OF B.S. The “leader-less leaders” that have been elected are out of touch with the needs of the people. It’s time to elect NEW LEADERS for our citizens and county. It’s time to “VOTE ALL OF THESE ASSWIPES OUT OF OFFICE”!


nurse1

rickholliday I agree, I am new in this county and am sickened by all I see. I have tried to do my homework in hopes of casting an educated vote. Unfortunately the more I see, read and hear, the more nauseated I become.I have watched debates with Mr. Gibson and have done all I could to just get through them. I do not know this man personally and make it a point not to listen to others as we all know what opinions are like. My gut feeling is that he is full of malarkey, not to mention someone that is full of himself. Since moving here I have made it a point to attend meetings (when I am not working) and am flabbergasted when witnessing the way he speaks to the public. I even attended what was suppose to be a local debate/forum where 2 of the people running in the city I live in did not even show up! I was told that the mayor that was running was having a get together a a local bar in town? I thought I was hearing things.


nurse1

As a footnote I am not educated on fracking, therefore I can not comment on the pros or cons.


fishing village

Fracking has reduced the need for Foreign import of oil/gas into our country!!


jms3211

You need to drink a glass of oil bro! You don’t get it, we don’t want fracking! We don’t want it, so telling us again what we’ve already heard doesn’t matter. If you don’t think there are better ways to get oil, you too sir have been duped along with the entire sheepsville! When will all this getting rich shit stop and people get to take care of one another?


Myself

No you don’t get it,the rest of us are sick and tired of the minority getting their way, you people can eat roots,ride you bike,walk and use candles, the rest of us don’t want to and are not going t, we don’t care what you want.


GoneBabyGone

Now, there’s the attitude that is really at the heart of this debate from those who could care less about our health, environment, resources or those who will live here in the future, “…we don’t care what you want.”, and coming from someone with the moniker “Myself”? Very fitting.


At least you’re honest, no smoke and mirrors, no hiding behind doctored studies, no using huge financial resources to silence the “minority” or having the government in your back pocket, just the “…we don’t care what you want.”


Good job Myself! I think you just came up with the one true slogan for the petroleum industry, “We Don’t Care What You Want!”


rickholliday

rickholliday to fishing village: WTF? Please do some homework on what B.S. you spew on here. Facking has NOT reduced the need for Foreign imports of oil/gas! It has however caused major health concerns and is polluting our water everywhere! WE NEED ALT. ENERGY, WIND/SUN/WAVE TECHNOLOGY……NOT FRACKING!


Citizen

To the Irritated Non-Frackers: Go away.


This county is in the midst of a water crisis and we have important, timely business to attend to in the Supervisor meetings concerning water and county problems.


On Tuesday, while you were at the BOS meeting, the U.S. Energy Information Agency issued a new statement on the Monterey Shale area. Originally it estimated the Monterey Shale to hold nearly 14 billion barrels of untapped oil. On Tuesday the agency downgraded its potential to 600 million barrels — possibly enough to deflate the current SLO County debate over the issue.


Santa Cruz County voted in a ban on fracking –a symbolic vote– considering there are no oil leases or oil development plans because there is no oil in that county. However, that ban covered buildings and facilities only because the state monitors the wells.


At this point, the SLO County ban would be symbolic also. Your group needs to appeal to Governor Brown and the Legislature, not the BOS.


I am against fracking in most of California simply because of the active earthquake faults. But your efforts now are just a distraction from the very serious drought/water crisis that is here now.


The BOS will need to reexamine its rules and regulations, but groups such as yours should not be allowed to hijack a BOS meeting for a symbolic gesture.


hijinks

“This county is in the midst of a water crisis and we have important, timely business to attend to.”


Maybe you’re ignorant about what fracking means. It means injecting huge quantities of water into the underground areas where there may be gas. Huge amounts of water. That’s water that’s scarce, and better used for domestic and ag purposes. Get informed. Then, if you’re actually serious about water issues, join the non-frackers as they try to protect you from your own ignorance.


OnTheOtherHand

I think that his point wasn’t that fracking is good, just that trying to deal with it on the local level is a waste of time. I mostly disagree with this as resolutions like the one they’d like to enact do get the attention of state officials. But I can also see his point about directing more of their energy to influencing Sacramento.


While masses of public speakers on a subject are a waste of time at a BOS meeting, their right to speak out should not be abridged for that reason — especially without adequate advance notice. Gibson is indeed an arrogant SOB who shouldn’t be in an elected office. And the other supervisors failed in not calling him out on it. (Do you hear me Caren Rae?)


TaxMeAgain

Exactly hijinks. According to several sites including PopularMechanics.com, “there is no question that hydraulic fracturing uses a lot of water: It can take up to 7 million gallons to frack a single well, and at least 30 percent of that water is lost forever, after being trapped deep in the shale.”


I cannot think of any other industrial process that removes water from the evaporation condensation cycle in such quantities.


Education is the key and remember to check your sources very carefully because there is a lot of money at stake and those vested interests are desperately trying to control the info.


suzyque

Keep studying. Fracking is a lot bigger issue then our County can handle. In fact, you are wasting our time. Now that you know you have a lot to learn about politics, it’s time to join a statewide group that is effectively covering this issue like The Sierra Club.


pasodowny

That’s a good one. The Sierra Club. I’m still laughing.


OnTheOtherHand

While the Sierra Club isn’t always on the wrong side of issues, I would hesitate to use it as a positive example around here. Too many people have issues with their history of disregard for personal property rights. That may not have happened as often as these people think but it has happened often enough and has ruined their credibility with many people who are “environmental moderates.” (I have my own gripes about other positions but can recognize that they are right at times.)


Krusater

NONE of the incidents you list show even the slightest evidence, let alone proof, of any infiltration of gas or other substances into the water supply or any other supply. Even the EPA dropped an investigation into tainted water wells after finding no unusual levels of any chemicals.


You are chasing a ghost, hoping and wishing to find something/anything to stop this incredible wave of good fortune in the form of newly discovered reserves of oil and gas. You are so wanting us to run out of fossil fuels, that any hint of new sources of these fuels sends you into contortions.


Why don’t you accept that fossil fuels are plentiful, inexpensive, clean (and getting cleaner), and easy to use? There is NO acceptable alternative, anyway. You have NO plans on how to get enough fuel or electricity for this country without fossil fuels, so why don’t you stop giving us these false alarms, and apply yourself to some real problems.


pasodowny

The impact that will be felt from fracking is not from breaking rock thousands of feet below us. It is from the huge amounts of water used in the process. Fracking’s impact is also on the communities where it takes place. Much more traffic from trucks and cars, day and night. Lots of dust, noise, and activity offered up in a boom-town atmosphere. So, no thanks. We don’t have the water, and everyone deserves peace and quiet where they live.


GoneBabyGone

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today provided an update on its ongoing national study currently underway to better understand any potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. Results of the study, which Congress requested EPA to complete, are expected to be released in a draft for public and peer review in 2014.


The report you stated as being dropped was one study and not the national one still underway that will be released later this year. The one you speak of is a little more descriptive than you’d want to allude to anyway, as it blows a big hole in your “industry hack” opinion:


“The Obama administration (EPA) on Thursday dropped plans to further investigate preliminary federal findings that linked contamination of a Wyoming aquifer to natural gas drilling, following industry backlash that called the study into question.”


“The draft report released by the Environmental Protection Agency in late 2011 sent shock-waves through the oil and gas sector, by finding that hydraulic fracturing fluids used in shale gas drilling had likely contaminated groundwater in Pavillion, Wyoming.”


“Those findings contradicted industry arguments that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has never played a role in water contamination and bolstered environmentalists who say the drilling practice is a danger to public health.” – Reuters, June 2013


The “industry backlash” the report refers to is the only “backlash” our government is concerned with, as the backlash of health problems don’t donate to there campaign funds, now do they?


You don’t live here in San Luis Obispo County, do you? If you did you’d understand the deeper need this county has for water than the marginal supply of NG it could provide to the market, and if for no other reason that ONE FACT should preclude any other that would “justify” fracking:


“America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found.

Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found. Fracking those wells used 97 billion gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America’s energy rush.”


“Shale producers are having significant impacts at the county level, especially in smaller rural counties with limited water infrastructure capacity,” the report said. “With water use requirements for shale producers already high and expected to double in the coming 10 years, these rural counties can expect severe water stress challenges in the years ahead.” – The Guardian, February 2014


The “smaller rural counties with limited water infrastructure” is the telling part of that article for us San Luis Obispo County residents, as it exemplifies exactly what we are.


Why don’t you go back to wherever you’re really from and either stay there or refill your “industry hack backpack” with some not so antiquated arguments and get back to us. We’ll still be here, trying to protect our beautiful county from the likes of you.


:


hijinks

In fact, natural gas is so cheap and plentiful it’s being exported. Did you know that? It’s not for US. We don’t need any more.


GoneBabyGone

Is that so? From just a two week period in March and April of this year (and these are just a few examples):


Southern California Gas asked its customers to power down where possible to reduce the compnaies NG usage.


Montana State University in Billings canceled classes so it wouldn’t have to heat buildings because of the short supply of NG.


Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) enacted a state of emergency because there wouldn’t be enough NG for power plants. ERCOT asked Luminant Generating to fire up two big coal-fired plants that are normally on standby during the winter (Texas is the largest producer of NG in the country).


St. Louis had shortages of propane ( propane is recovered from natural gas wells) that drove up prices from $3 to $6 per gallon.


In Wisconsin the propane crisis was so bad that Gov. Scott Walker called a state of emergency. A pipeline explosion only worsened the problem.


If in fact we have such plentiful supply of NG then one could deduce that the petroleum companies are exporting more than they should to drive prices up in this country, correct? If that’s the case, the industry preached absolute need for more fracking to provide much needed NG to this country is just another industry lie, correct?


One lie after another, that’s all we get from this industry, all to bolster their profits at the expense of the health of the planet and it’s inhabitants.


MaryMalone

QUOTING THE ARTICLE: “Gibson estimated that it would probably be several months before anything will get on the agenda.


Translation: They won’t touch this with a 100-foot pole until after the election.