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California to ban new fracking permits by Jan. 2024, phase out oil extraction by 2045
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday May 12th, 2021 5:10 AM
Representatives of environmental justice and climate justice groups praised the directive for being a step in the right direction, but said phasing out oil extraction in California by 2045 is too late and noted that frontline communities need an immediate 2500 foot health and safety buffer now, not later.
SACRAMENTO – On April 23, Governor Gavin Newsom took action to ban new fracking permits by January 2024 and to phase out oil extraction in California by 2045.

The Governor directed the Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management (CalGEM) Division to “initiate regulatory action to end the issuance of new permits for hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) by January 2024.”

In addition, Governor Newsom requested that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) “analyze pathways to phase out oil extraction across the state by no later than 2045,” according to a press release from the Governor’s Office.

His latest directive contradicts the Governor’s previous claim that he didn’t have the executive authority to ban fracking — and that it was the Legislature’s role to do it.

“The climate crisis is real, and we continue to see the signs every day,” said Governor Newsom. “As we move to swiftly decarbonize our transportation sector and create a healthier future for our children, 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.”

Under the directive, CalGEM will immediately initiate the rulemaking to halt the issuance of new hydraulic fracturing permits by 2024.

Under Governor Newsom’s direction, CARB will evaluate how to phase out oil extraction by 2045 through the Climate Change scoping plan, the state’s comprehensive, multi-year regulatory and programmatic plan to achieve required reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to instituting more rigorous review of hydraulic fracturing permit applications, Newsom noted that “CalGEM continues to operationalize its updated mandate to protect public health and the environment. This includes:

• Developing a new health and safety regulation to protect workers and communities near oil fields.
• Implementing new regulations that prohibit surface expressions and placing a moratorium on high-pressure cyclic steam injection, which has been linked to surface expressions.
• Integrating independent experts from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Department of Finance’s Office of State Audits and Evaluations to recommend further improvements to CalGEM’s permitting process.
• Increasing financial bonding requirements on oil companies to ensure adequate closure of defunct wells and clean-up of inactive oil fields.”

Representatives of environmental justice and climate justice groups praised the directive for being a step in the right direction, but said phasing out oil extraction in California by 2045 is too late and noted that frontline communities need an immediate 2500 foot health and safety buffer now, not later.

Others noted that the Governor’s directive refers only to oil wells and operations, but doesn’t include natural gas drilling wells and storage facilities like those operated by SoCalGas, the company responsible for the massive Alison Canyon gas blowout.

In a tweet right after the press release was issued, the Last Chance Alliance, a large and broad coalition of environmental justice, climate, environmental and public advocacy organizations, wrote:

“The right vision from @CAGovernor — but at the wrong timeline, & without the lens of #ClimateJustice. Missing from the Gov's tweet: oil drilling won’t phase-out until 2045. We need this action, but we need it faster. And we need to prioritize frontline communities #SetbacksNow”

Martha Dina Argüello, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA), also responded to the announcement, noting that communities need “immediate relief” from the health impacts of oil and gas drilling.

“We welcome this historic announcement that we need a just transition away from oil,” said Arguello. “Yet we are acutely aware of the slow and often exclusionary nature of regulatory processes. Communities need immediate relief to the health assaults of oil and gas extraction in the form of an immediate 2500 foot health and safety buffer. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Dan Ress, a staff attorney with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment said, “With today’s executive order, Governor Newsom has committed to a public process to guide the managed decline of oil and gas production in California, and that is a bold step back into climate leadership after the legislature’s failure on SB 467 last week. We’re looking forward to engaging with the administration on both the timeline and pathways of this plan, and we will push very hard to phase out extraction on a tighter time frame and in a manner that prioritizes communities and mitigating environmental racism. As a first step, we call on the governor to create an emergency rule creating 2500 foot oil and gas setbacks from homes, schools, hospitals, and other sensitive receptors.”

“Today’s executive order is an important step toward climate justice, and we are excited that the Governor has finally shared what we’ve all known all along: we need to work together to bring about a just transition away from oil and gas in California,” responded Kobi Naseck, Coalition Coordinator with Voices in Solidarity Against Oil in Neighborhoods (VISIÓN). “We will continue to pressure the administration on the timeline and pathways of this plan, and the best way to start is to protect people and workers most affected first. It’s time for the Governor to support 2,500 ft health and safety buffer zones.”

"Of course this directive has a huge impact on our communities and is a historic public commitment to a just transition away from fossil fuels,” said Cesar Aguirre, Central California Environmental Justice Network. “But, why do people of color always have to wait? We have been asking for setbacks for years, and every day that we allow the inherently dangerous practice of neighborhood drilling is an assault on our lungs, and it is an assault on justice. The first step of this directive and plan should be to create minimum 2,500-foot health and safety setbacks to protect frontline communities — that’s what the environmental justice community deserves.”

Consumer Watchdog said Governor Newson’s ban on fracking in 2024 is “a step in the right direction,” and with the number of permit approvals falling dramatically so far this year, “he has a perfect opening to take even stronger steps.”

“We applaud Newsom’s executive action to ban fracking, but he shouldn’t kick the can down the road another three years,” said Consumer Advocate Liza Tucker. “The ban should be immediate. And Newsom should move on establishing a 2,500-foot setback between frontline communities and oil drilling operations. An anticipated rule from CalGEM on that is long overdue.”

Overall, first quarter 2021 oil permit approvals for new drills of both oil & gas production wells and wells using “harsh extraction techniques” to coax oil out of the ground plunged 90% to only 100 permit approvals, according to the latest CalGEM data crunched by FracTracker Alliance for Newsomwellwatch.com. The pandemic suppressed demand for oil and oil company permit applications.

“Rather than relying on the markets to dictate a managed decline, Governor Newsom's administration needs to be the leader in creating those policies,” said Kyle Ferrar, Western Program Coordinator for FracTracker Alliance. “Most importantly, this starts with establishing responsible public health rules that include a setback, to protect Californians living in Frontline Communities."

"While it is significant that for the first time Governor Newsom is acknowledging the need to ban fracking and his authority to do it, this announcement is a half measure as it allows continued drilling and fracking for the next two and a half years,” stated Alex Nagy, California Director at Food & Water Watch. “It comes after years of pressure and dedicated organizing by thousands of Californians who want a just transition away from fracking now. Directing his regulatory agencies to do the work over two and a half years that the governor can do today is more of the dodging we’ve seen from Newsom during his entire tenure. Phasing out oil drilling is absolutely necessary, but 2045 is a long way off.”

“Until then, Newsom leaves Californians on the frontlines to pay for the oil industry’s scars on the landscape and damage to community health. He needs to use the authority the law has given him to stop issuing all new oil and gas permits, ban fracking completely and phase out oil drilling now starting with a 2,500-foot health and safety buffer between wells and sensitive sites. Newsom needs to protect our water supplies as we head into a destructive drought and guard our frontline communities from further harm,” Nagy concluded.

As expected, the Western States Petroleum Association, the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying group in California, condemned the Governor’s executive order and vowed to “fight this harmful and unlawful mandate.”

“Once again, Governor Newsom has chosen to ignore science, data and facts to govern by bans, mandates and personal fiat,” said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President and CEO of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and the former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create marine protected areas in Southern California. “Banning nearly 20% of the energy production in our state will only hurt workers, families and communities in California and turns our energy independence over to foreign suppliers.”

“Through all means possible, we will join with workers, community leaders and others who wish to protect access to safe, affordable and reliable energy to fight this harmful and unlawful mandate. We will be a key part of an equitable energy future for California,” she said.

Here is the full text of the Governor’s press release:

California will work to end oil extraction as part of nation-leading effort to achieve carbon neutrality

Action will halt issuance of fracking permits by 2024

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today directed the Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management (CalGEM) Division to initiate regulatory action to end the issuance of new permits for hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) by January 2024. Additionally, Governor Newsom requested that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) analyze pathways to phase out oil extraction across the state by no later than 2045.

“The climate crisis is real, and we continue to see the signs every day,” said Governor Newsom. “As we move to swiftly decarbonize our transportation sector and create a healthier future for our children, 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.”

Under today’s directive, CalGEM will immediately initiate the rulemaking to halt the issuance of new hydraulic fracturing permits by 2024.

Under Governor Newsom’s direction, CARB will evaluate how to phase out oil extraction by 2045 through the Climate Change scoping plan, the state’s comprehensive, multi-year regulatory and programmatic plan to achieve required reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Inclusion of the target in the Scoping Plan means that phasing out oil extraction becomes a part of California’s blueprint to achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045. CARB will evaluate economic, environmental and health benefits and effects of eliminating oil extraction. CARB’s scoping plan process will be informed by cross-sector collaboration and public input focusing on benefits in disadvantaged communities, opportunities for job creation and economic growth as we achieve carbon neutrality.

In advance of the phase-out of fracking in 2024, CalGEM’s process for reviewing permits for this practice is the most stringent in the country, and includes input from experts at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. More on the permit review process is available here.

Permit approvals and resulting hydraulic fracturing activity are at the lowest level since the Legislature enacted Senate Bill 4 in 2014 to strengthen regulation of hydraulic fracturing.

In addition to instituting more rigorous review of hydraulic fracturing permit applications, CalGEM continues to operationalize its updated mandate to protect public health and the environment. This includes:

Developing a new health and safety regulation to protect workers and communities near oil fields.
Implementing new regulations that prohibit surface expressions and placing a moratorium on high-pressure cyclic steam injection, which has been linked to surface expressions.
Integrating independent experts from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Department of Finance’s Office of State Audits and Evaluations to recommend further improvements to CalGEM’s permitting process.
Increasing financial bonding requirements on oil companies to ensure adequate closure of defunct wells and clean-up of inactive oil fields.
Earlier this week, the California Environmental Protection Agency announced the release of two independent studies that identify strategies to support the state’s goal to dramatically reduce transportation fossil fuel demand and supply by 2045. The studies analyze the health and safety impacts associated with pollution originating from the extraction and processing of oil and will inform CARB’s scoping plan.

Today’s actions build on the Governor’s September 2020 executive order, which called for an end to fracking and to accelerate California’s transition away from gasoline-powered cars and trucks and reduce demand for fossil fuels. The order also directed agencies to:

Develop and implement a just transition roadmap.
Propose strategies to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels beyond 2030 with consideration of the full life cycle of carbon.
Expedite regulatory processes to repurpose and transition upstream and downstream oil production facilities, while supporting community participation, labor standards and protection of public health, safety and the environment.
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Thorough ReportingLeon KunstenaarWednesday May 12th, 2021 9:57 PM
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