top
Central Valley
Central Valley
Newswire
Calendar
Features
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Governor Newsom orders scientific review of new fracking permits
by Dan Bacher
Tuesday Nov 19th, 2019 8:58 PM
Food & Water Action California State Director Alexandra Nagy issued a statement today calling for more action on oil and gas in California.

“While we are encouraged by the moratorium on cyclic steam, which is needed, much more should be done to address oil and gas issues in California,” said Nagy. “Since Governor Newsom took office, thousands of new drilling permits have been issued. The small steps announced today are in the right direction, but if we are really going to address fossil fuel-driven climate and health crises, much more is needed."
sm_newsom_remarks_0904-1.jpg
SACRAMENTO – The Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources today announced a moratorium on cyclic high pressure steam injection in oil industry operations and an independent review of new fracking permits.

While not an outright ban on fracking and steam injection techniques, the temporary halt to these oil drilling techniques is considered a welcome victory after many years of efforts by opponents of fracking and other extreme oil extraction techniques.

The Newsom administration also announced a rule making process related to health impacts in communities living near oil and gas facilities.

Three actions were announced today, according to DOGGR: 

1. “A halt of approvals of new oil extraction wells that use high-pressure steam to break oil formations below the ground, a process linked to recent oil leaks in Kern County.

2. Rules for public health and safety protections near oil and gas extraction facilities will be updated and strengthened.

3. Pending applications to conduct hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation practices will be independently reviewed." 

“These are necessary steps to strengthen oversight of oil and gas extraction as we phase out our dependence on fossil fuels and focus on clean energy sources,” said Governor Newsom. “This transition cannot happen overnight; it must advance in a deliberate way to protect people, our environment, and our economy.” 

Since mid-July, state regulators have not issued a new permit for fracking or acidizing in California and have slowed the overall rate of permitting oil wells, according to Consumer Watchdog. However, state regulators have granted oil permits at a pace that is 8.8% greater in the first ten months of 2019 than in the same period last year under Governor Jerry Brown, according to an analysis of state data released by Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance today. 

The two groups applauded Governor Newsom's announcement today that he would “further rein in oil and gas extraction and regulate health and safety issues near extraction sites.”

"Governor Newsom has taken an important step toward reining in the most high risk extraction techniques," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. "The ultimate test of his tenure for climate change and the public will be simple math about how many fewer permits are issued and how many existing wells are closed. Net zero wells should be his goal."    

Gladys Limón, Executive Director of the California Environmental Justice Alliance, also praised Newsom’s announcement.

“Today, Governor Newsom and his administration ushered a new day in California where the source of the climate emergency and fossil fuel public health crisis are finally being addressed,” said Limón, “We hope that these initial strong actions result in strong, durable measures that provide overdue relief to frontline communities, which have long fought to protect their families from the unconscionable health and safety burdens of oil operations next to their homes and schools. We look forward to working with the administration to meaningfully protect communities from these harms and further catalyze our state toward a prosperous and safe fossil-free California.”  ​

Food & Water Action California State Director Alexandra Nagy issued a statement today calling for more action on oil and gas in California.

“While we are encouraged by the moratorium on cyclic steam, which is needed, much more should be done to address oil and gas issues in California,” said Nagy. “Since Governor Newsom took office, thousands of new drilling permits have been issued. The small steps announced today are in the right direction, but if we are really going to address fossil fuel-driven climate and health crises, much more is needed."

“We urge Governor Newsom to immediately institute a complete ban on fracking, stop issuing new drilling permits -- which have been increasing under his administration -- and use his executive authority to protect communities across the state now,” she concluded.

Earlier this year, Food & Water Watch released a report on oil and gas development in California. The report documented, among other things, an increase in drilling permits since Governor Newsom took office, continued contamination of aquifers by oil operations, and the use of oil wastewater in crop irrigation.   

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the trade association for the oil industry in the Western States of California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Washington and the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying group in California, described Newsom’s changes as “disappointing.”  

“Every barrel delayed or not produced in this state will only increase imports from more costly foreign sources that do not share our environmental safety standards,” Catherine Reheis-Boyd, WSPA president and former chair of the Marine Life Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California, told the Washington Post.   

WSPA has spent $6.6 million lobbying CA officials in 2019 so far. You can expect the association to ramp up its lobby spending now in an attempt to stop the moratorium from becoming a ban on new fracking operations, as well as to stop and/or minimize the strengthening of public health and safety protections near oil and gas extraction facilities.

For more information, go to: https://www.dailykos.com/story/2019/11/9/1898330/-Western-States-Petroleum-Association-has-spent-6-6-million-lobbying-CA-politicians-in-2019-so-far 

Why was Newsom willing to halt new fracking permits as they are reviewed?

Why was Governor Newsom willing to take the first - and very preliminary - steps today on dealing with the expansion of oil and gas drilling in California while he continues to stand with Big Ag and the water contractors on the voluntary agreements, the Delta Tunnel and his veto of SB 1?

It could come down to one thing - money. Newsom received a total of $755,198 from agribusiness in 2018, based on the latest data from http://www.followthemoney.org. That figure includes $579,998 in the agriculture donations category, combined with another $116,800 from Beverly Hills agribusiness tycoons Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of the Wonderful Company and the largest orchard fruit growers in the world, and $58,400 from E.J. Gallo.

By vetoing SB 1, supporting the voluntary water agreements, backing the Delta Tunnel, hiring William Lyons as a special "agriculture liaison" to the Governor's Office, and doing nothing to date about the Department of Interior's sweetheart deal with the Westlands Water District, Newsom is apparently bending to the will of his agribusiness donors.

On the other hand, Newsom signed an “Oil Money Out” pledge to not take money from the oil industry, even though he took money from other energy interests, most notably Pacific Gas & Electric. As far as I know, he didn’t receive big donations from members of the Western States Petroleum Association, as Jerry Brown did. Even though he is still subject to heavy pressure from the oil industry, he didn't get them to bankroll his campaign.

I emphasize that the steps taken today were very preliminary - and the scientific review of new fracking permits could result in the granting of some new fracking permits if the wrong scientists, those subject to influence by Big Oil, are appointed to the science review panel. So everybody must keep intense pressure upon Newsom to do the right thing.

Below is the Department’s statement, followed by Consumer Watchdog’s press release:

SACRAMENTO – The Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources – which will be renamed the Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM, effective Jan. 1, 2020 – today announced a series of initiatives to safeguard public health and the environment, advance California’s goal to become carbon-neutral by 2045 and manage the decline of oil production and consumption in the state.

The new actions are being taken under CalGEM’s recently strengthened mission to protect public health and safety while safeguarding the environment, as outlined in legislation (AB 1057 – Limón) signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in October.

“These are necessary steps to strengthen oversight of oil and gas extraction as we phase out our dependence on fossil fuels and focus on clean energy sources,” said Governor Newsom. “This transition cannot happen overnight; it must advance in a deliberate way to protect people, our environment, and our economy.” 

“These actions reflect an evolution in CalGEM’s mission that emphasizes public health and safety, environmental protection and reducing climate impacts associated with oil production,” said Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot.

The Natural Resources Agency oversees the Department of Conservation and CalGEM.

Three actions were announced today: 

1. A halt of approvals of new oil extraction wells that use high-pressure steam to break oil formations below the ground, a process linked to recent oil leaks in Kern County 

This moratorium prohibits new extraction wells that use a high-pressure cyclic steaming process to break apart a geological formation to extract oil. During the moratorium, regulators will consult with experts to examine records from recent leaks of oil and water, known as surface expressions, in the Cymric oil field in Kern County to determine whether high-pressure cyclic steaming can be done safely and in compliance with recent regulations that make surface expressions illegal. Oil and gas regulators could require certain safety practices, update regulations to impose new rules, or prohibit the practice altogether.

Surface expressions are illegal under new regulations that took effect April 1. CalGEM has issued several notices of violation for spills in the Cymric field, and is partnering with independent experts from the Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories to assess underlying conditions in the Cymric formation. Simultaneous to this moratorium, CalGEM is also proactively assessing the safety of existing wells using high-pressure steaming above the fracture pressure of a formation. Wells that use cyclic steaming at lower pressures are not affected by the moratorium.

2. Rules for public health and safety protections near oil and gas extraction facilities will be updated and strengthened 

Regulations to strengthen protections for public health and safety will be put in place. The intent of the rulemaking is to establish a transparent set of rules designed to protect residents and communities near oil and gas extraction sites. The rulemaking process will consider the best available science and data to inform new protective requirements. It will involve consulting with environmental and public health advocates, as well as public health authorities, including the California Department of Public Health, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and other health experts.

The first step of this process will be a series of pre-rulemaking workshops with interested parties to seek input on the best ways to protect human health through new rules. The efforts will include proactive outreach that will begin in the coming weeks to communities near oil and gas operations, oil and gas companies, and other stakeholders, including local governments, environmental leaders and advocates, as well as academics.

The rulemaking will consider a range of protective measures, including prohibiting oil and gas activities within close proximity of homes, schools, hospitals, and parks. The pre-regulatory process will begin in 2020, with new/modified rules anticipated later that year.

“We are updating rules to better ensure that public health and safety are protected as we continue the transition away from carbon extraction to a renewable energy future,” Crowfoot said.

Pending applications to conduct hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation practices will be independently reviewed​   

The state’s process for approving well stimulation permits has been under review by CalGEM since mid-July 2019. Moving forward, CalGEM has requested an independent audit of its permitting processes for well stimulation and underground injection control by the California Department of Finance’s Office of State Audits and Evaluations. The audit will focus on whether the current permitting processes comply with state regulations and policies and will develop recommendations to strengthen operational processes and procedures.

While this audit is being completed in the coming months, the division is instituting a third-party scientific review of pending well stimulation permit applications to ensure the state’s technical standards for public health, safety and environmental protection are met prior to approval of each permit. The review will be conducted by independent experts from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Other recent and ongoing actions

These actions are the latest steps by Governor Newsom’s Administration to strengthen regulatory oversight of oil and gas production in California. These actions are also part of a broader state effort to manage the decline in fossil fuel production and consumption in California in a way that is economically responsible and sustainable, improves public health and safety, and protects the environment. This is in line with the state’s overall climate goals of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045.

The 2019 Budget Act appropriated $3 million in funding for two studies. One is a first-ever study to identify strategies for managing the decline in the demand and supply for fossil fuels. The second study will examine ways to significantly reduce emissions from vehicles, including transitioning to zero emission vehicles and reducing vehicle miles traveled. The California Environmental Protection Agency is developing the scope for these studies together with other state agencies and the University of California, with input gathered through a public process.

In recent months, the Governor also has:

Made the state’s first major workforce investment of $165 million over five years to help enable economic transition away from dependence on fossil fuels.

Changed leadership overseeing oil and gas policy at CalGEM and the Department of Conservation.

Signed five bills to improve regulatory oversight of oil and gas extraction in the state.

Strongly opposed President Trump’s effort to expand oil and gas extraction on federal lands within California.

Initiated the most comprehensive air monitoring campaign in the country in communities located near oil and gas operations.

Protected the state’s clean car standards against efforts by the Trump Administration to roll back greenhouse gas emission standards that protect public health and combat climate change.

Supported a series of regulations and incentives directed at supporting zero emission transportation alternatives to facilitate the transition from petroleum.

The first organization to comment on the moratorium and other initiatives was Consumer Watchdog.  Below is their news release:

Newsom Freezes New Fracking Permits In California & Slows Rate of Oil Well Approvals Since Summer; 2019 State Oil Well Permits Still Outpace 2018

Groups Unveil New Map To Keep Count of Governor Newsom’s Oil Wells

Los Angeles, CA—Since mid-July, state regulators have not issued a new permit for fracking or acidizing in California and have slowed the overall rate of permitting oil wells. Nonetheless, state regulators have granted oil permits at a pace that is 8.8% greater in the first ten months of 2019 than in the same period last year under Governor Jerry Brown, Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance said today based on an analysis of state data.

The groups applauded Governor Newsom's announcement today that he would further rein in oil and gas extraction and regulate health and safety issues near extraction sites.

"Governor Newsom has taken an important step toward reining in the most high risk extraction techniques," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. "The ultimate test of his tenure for climate change and the public will be simple math about how many fewer permits are issued and how many existing wells are closed. Net zero wells should be his goal."

In July, the two public interest groups pointed out that state oil regulators held stock in the oil companies they regulated, prompting Governor Newsom to fire the state’s top oil regulator. The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) opened an investigation of the regulators in question. Newsom expressed concern at the time that he did not realize fracking permits had increased 103.2% over the first six months of 2018--Governor Jerry Brown’s last year in office.  

FracTracker and Consumer Watchog unveiled a new website today to continually map and update the number of oil and gas wells permitted by the Newsom Administration: http://www.NewsomWellWatch.com.

The pace of permitting overall is still on track to beat the total number of permits issued during Brown’s final year in office (2018). The number of drilling and rework permits issued in the first ten months of 2019 through November 4 total 4,049. In the same period of 2018, under Governor Brown, the total was 3,723.

In addition to increasing the numbers of permits issued annually in 2019, about ten percent of permits continue to be approved for wells that present the greatest risk to frontline communities. These wells are within 2,500 feet of schools, hospitals, homes, daycares, and nursing facilities and are sources of toxic air emissions including carcinogens.

“While it is promising for the climate and community health to see that Governor Newsom’s administration has stopped issuing hydraulic fracturing and acidizing permits, the real health threat continues to expand in California,” said Kyle Ferrar, Western Program Coordinator for FrackTracker Alliance. “Oil and gas wells continue to be permitted in increasing numbers near schools, hospitals, and next to homes in frontline communities. Only setbacks and an end to drilling can reduce the elevated risks of cancer, congenital disorders, asthma and other health impacts resulting from living near oil and gas drilling.”

“Since summer the oil permitting under Governor Newsom has flattened decisively,” said Liza Tucker, advocate for Consumer Watchdog. “Governor Newsom can still reverse the pace of permitting this year so that it is less than Governor Brown’s in 2018.”

In July of this year, FracTracker and Consumer Watchdog found that the pace of permitting the drilling of new oil and gas wells had grown by 77% over the year before. This included new oil and gas production wells and enhanced oil recovery wells (EOR). Of note, permits for drilling new oil and gas production wells had increased by 61.6%. Permits for well reworks were also elevated at 19.5%, and 53.3% if only rework permits for oil and gas production wells were considered.

As a result, Governor Newsom fired California’s top oil regulator and instituted an ethics review of the state’s oil well approval and inspection process. Since then the pace of permitting to drill new oil and gas wells slowed, but as of November 4, 2019 was still 17.2% higher than 2018, according to the California Department of Conservation data. This includes new oil and gas production wells (up 15.3%) and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and support wells (up 18.2%). Enhanced oil recovery wells use techniques such as steam flooding, cyclic steaming, water flooding and other methods to gain access to hard-to-extract heavy crude oil.

This reflects an overall decrease of nearly 60% in the rate of permitting new drilling since July. Similarly, rates of permitting well reworks have slowed 18.5%. As of November 4, permits to rework oil and gas production wells were elevated 19.6% versus 53.3% on July 8; a drop of 33.7%. Well reworks permits are required to deepen, redrill and recondition wells; techniques used to improve production.

We are 100% volunteer and depend on your participation to sustain our efforts!

Donate

donate now

$ 97.00 donated
in the past month

Get Involved

If you'd like to help with maintaining or developing the website, contact us.

Publish

Publish your stories and upcoming events on Indybay.

IMC Network