The Five Statements Found to be True and Not Misleading:
Oil Drilling Will be Unsafe
Oil Drilling Will be Unhealthy
Miles of Dangerous Underground Pipelines will Threaten our Quality of Life and our Health
Operations Will Bring Unhealthy Odors, Noise and Light Pollution
The Official Environmental Impact Report Identifies Nine ‘Significant Unavoidable Impacts’
Ballot Arguments and Rebuttals for and Against Measure O will be Included in the Pamphlet and Mailed to all Voters in Early 2015
by Alana Garrigues
Superior Court Judge Joann O’Donnell upheld Hermosa Beach City Clerk Elaine Doerfling’s determination that the ballot argument in opposition to Measure O satisfied the requirements of California elections law.
On Dec. 19, O’Donnell denied the writ of mandate submitted by Hermosa Beach resident Raymond Dussault requesting modification or removal of the ballot argument approved by Doerfling.
O’Donnell’s decision stated that, “Petitioner (Dussault) has not demonstrated that Real Party’s (ballot argument authors’) arguments in opposition to Measure O are false or misleading. The disagreement between the parties is one properly resolved by the electorate, not the court. Therefore, the petition is denied.”
The five statements in the opposition argument that Dussault called “false or misleading” were: “oil drilling will be unsafe,” “oil drilling will be … unhealthy,” “miles of dangerous underground pipelines that will threaten our quality of life and our health,” “operations that will bring unhealthy odors … noise and light pollution” and “the official Environmental Impact Report identifies nine ‘significant unavoidable impacts’ including air pollution that will exceed air quality thresholds.”
The writ of mandate was denied for a mix of “predictive statements” that are not considered “false or misleading” because they refer to a prediction about a future that is “inherently unverifiable” and data about the potential for pipeline ruptures, air pollution, light pollution and odors, which are outlined in the EIR.
Regarding defining the project as “unsafe,” the court decision found: “(Dussault’s) argument that the project cannot be unsafe because it will be subject to extensive regulation to ensure safety does not establish that (the opposition argument authors’) statement is false. To the contrary, it merely establishes that an underlying unsafe condition exists. (The ballot author) obviously believes that the regulatory scheme will be insufficient to ameliorate this underlying condition. Again, this is an opinion that is not properly challenged by a writ petition.”
The opinions of the ballot authors were determined to be “differing—as opposed to misleading” and substantiated by the EIR, albeit “inherently unverifiable” due to their predictive nature about an unknown future.
The court decision states, “ultimately, (Dussault) and (opposition argument authors) advocate different positions as to the acceptability of the facility’s impacts on the community. Each opinion is supported by facts.”
According to resident and Stop Hermosa Beach Oil steering committee member Kevin Sousa, the hearing took less than 20 minutes. He was pleased with the judge’s decision and said the accusations had caused him to take pause and reread the EIR carefully, looking to statements and facts to support the anti-oil group’s claims.
“It isn’t just a wild opinion based out of nothing. It’s based out of factual content in the EIR and it’s not wild accusations,” Sousa said. “The more I dug into it, the more there are certain things that the EIR says will happen. There’s a 24 to 1 chance in years, which means it’s a certainty that there will be leaks, that there will be ruptures in the pipeline. It’s going to happen.”
E&B Natural Resources Spokesman Eric Rose issued a press release following the court decision and said O’Donnell found the statements to be “opinion rather than fact,” and that “the Yes on Measure O campaign will continue to run a fact-based campaign.”
Dussault’s comments in the press release also expressed confidence in the project’s campaign.
“I disagree that the facts should not matter,” Dussault said. “However, I am confident that the Measure O campaign, based on facts and science, will succeed over their campaign based on opinions and fear.”
If approved by voters on March 3, Measure O would allow the city to temporarily lift a citywide ban on oil production in order for E&B to proceed with a 34-year directional drilling proposal at Sixth Street and Valley Drive. The ballot measure is being presented to voters pursuant to a settlement agreement reached in 2012, relieving the city from ongoing litigation with Macpherson Oil.
Ballot arguments and rebuttals for and against Measure O will be included in the pamphlet and mailed to all voters in early 2015.
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