From The Guardian – California’s governor has moved to ban new fracking permits by 2024 and halt all oil extraction by 2045.
California, the most populous US state, produces the third largest amount of oil in the country. It would be the first state to end all extraction.
Gavin Newsom’s executive order, issued on Friday, paves the way for the state to stop issuing new fracking permits within the next few years, giving California’s Department of Conservation, which regulates the oil and gas industry, until 2024 to draft a mandate. The order also directs the California Air Resources Board to evaluate how to enact a ban on all extraction over the next 25 years.
The agency will study the environmental and health benefits of ending oil extraction, and determine how to mitigate the effect on local economies.
“The climate crisis is real, and we continue to see the signs every day,” Newsom said in a statement. “I’ve made it clear I don’t see a role for fracking in that future and, similarly, believe that California needs to move beyond oil.”
The order is a bold reversal for Newsom, who had initially resisted calls to enact a narrower ban on new fracking permits, arguing he lacked the authority. Fracking only accounts for about 1.5% of the state’s oil production. The controversial extraction method gets fuel out of the ground by using water and chemicals to crack open geological formations and stimulate them to release gas or oil, with the risk of causing earthquakes, water contamination and disastrous spills.
Research has found that fracking and other types of extraction are dangerous for the people who live near drilling sites – causing higher rates of asthma and cancer, as well as preterm births.
“We’re very excited about this order,” Dan Ress, a staff attorney at The Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment told the Guardian. “This is a big, bold step.”
Newsom’s announcement comes as he faces a likely recall election, and pressure from environmental groups who in recent months questioned his lukewarm support for broader legislation that would have banned fracking.
A bill that would have imposed tough restrictions on oil and gas failed to attract the five votes it needed to pass through the California senate’s natural resources committee last week. The legislation would have not only banned new fracking permits but also required a 2,500-foot buffer zone between drilling sites and schools, playgrounds and residences.
Some 7.4 million Californians live within a mile of oil and gas drilling, with low-income communities of color most affected.
“Communities need immediate relief to the heath assaults of oil and gas extraction,” said Martha Dina Agruello, the executive director of the Physicians for Social Responsibility.
To that end, environmental groups are now working with lawmakers to introduce an amended version of the bill that focuses on instituting a buffer between new and permitted drilling sites and where children live and play. Ress said that advocates are also asking the governor to issue an emergency rule mandating that filling sites are at least 2,500ft away from communities.
Several other oil-producing states, including Texas, Wyoming, Louisiana, Maryland, Illinois, Colorado and Pennsylvania have regulations on how close sites can be to communities.
Oil and gas extraction in California has also come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. Researchers say the state will need to double its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as it finds itself in the throes of the climate crisis, facing worsening droughts, rising sea levels, historic wildfires and deadly heat storms.
Despite tighter constraints on the oil and gas industry that Newsom issued two years ago, a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity says California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) has continued to approve drilling permits without proper environmental review. CalGEM issued the agency 213 permits for fracking in 2019, and 82 in 2020, and it issued nearly 2,000 total permits for all new oil and gas wells last year.
Story Credit: The Guardian, Photo Credit: Pumpjacks are seen in Bakersfield, California. Photograph: Jae C Hong/AP
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