New legislation would ban all fracking in California by 2027, targeting the state's powerful oil and gas industry that already plans to ban the sale of new gas cars by 2035.
Progressive California has long been a leader in fighting climate change, requiring solar panels on new homes and passing a law to make the most populous state in the country fully rely on renewable energy by 2045.
But environmental groups say California officials – especially governors – have long held a blind spot for the oil and gas industry, which has exercised its immense political power many times over to kill or weaken legislation aimed at limiting production.
That could change. Last year, the Democratic Gavin Newsom government announced steps to ban the sale of new gas cars and called on lawmakers to move forward by banning new permits for fracking, a technique to extract oil and gas that is deeply below the surface of that climate are embedded in the rocks. groups say it is harmful to the environment and a threat to public health.
Two state senators answered that call on Wednesday, announcing a measure that would stop new fracking permits or renewals by January 1 and ban the practice completely by 2027. The democratic state of Sens. San Francisco's Scott Wiener and Santa Barbara's Monique Limon also say they will change the bill next month to stop new oil and gas permits within 2,500 feet of homes or schools by January 1.
"This is real. It harms so many people, and the time to deal with it in the future is over. We need to do something about it now," Wiener said.
The oil and gas industry quickly pushed back. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president and CEO of the Western States Petroleum Association, said the legislation was "so broad and ambiguous" it "would lead to a total (oil) production ban in California."
Rock Zierman, CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association, called the measure "legally questionable".
"Shutting down energy production under the world's strictest regulations will devastate the economies of oil-producing regions," said Zierman.
Newsom, speaking at an unrelated press conference in the Coachella Valley, said he had not yet read the proposal and "could not comment on it."
California was one of the top oil-producing states in the country, peaking at 394 million barrels in 1985. But by 2017, production had dropped significantly, and it now ranks behind Texas, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado and Alaska, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Part of the reason is that the industry has depleted much of California's easily extractable oil reserves. What remains is deeply embedded in the rock underground that requires tremendous energy to extract. That includes using processes such as fracking, cyclic steaming, acid well stimulation, and water and steam floods to separate the oil from the rock – all processes that would be banned under the new law by 2027.
"It's one of the dirtiest oils in the world," said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute.
Environmental groups say these methods can cause significant damage to air quality and water supply. Research published this month by a team at Harvard University estimated that in 2018, 8.7 million people worldwide died prematurely from fossil fuel pollution, including 34,000 people in California, the Desert Sun in Palm Springs reported.
"We need to stop doing what we know causes death and disease," said Dr. Karina Maher, a Los Angeles pediatrician who works with the Climate Health Now advocacy group.
But critics say shutting down the state's oil production will not stop the state's dependence on oil, as millions of people still drive gas-powered cars. State Senator Shannon Grove, a Republican whose district includes parts of Kern County, said if the bill becomes law, it would force the state to "rely on foreign countries with a dismal human rights responsibility that barely allows women to drive and little to no respect. for the environment. "
Republican Representative Vince Fong, who also represents Kern County, said California produces oil "in the most environmentally friendly way."
"At a time like now when we need to revive our economy, I don't quite understand why we should pass legislation that eliminates jobs in our state," he said.
California has more than 5,500 oil wells that are likely to have been abandoned that could cost more than half a billion dollars to clean up, according to a review by the California Council on Science and Technology. For companies that end up doing that work, the legislation requires the state to provide them with undefined "incentives" to hire redundant oil and gas workers.
Wiener says it makes sense to prepare for the eventual decline of the oil and gas industry and try to avoid the fate of the coal industry, whose decline has devastated communities in the Appalachians.
"It's a shrinking industry. And instead of waiting for it to eventually decline and fall apart, let's go for it, facilitate phase-out and help workers," said Wiener.
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