SACRAMENTO, Calif.— State Sens. Scott Wiener and Monique Limón introduced a bill in the California legislature today that would end hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in California by 2023. The legislation is supported by a broad coalition of environmental, public health and community groups.
The bill also enacts a 2,500-foot health-and-safety buffer between oil and gas wells and homes, schools and other places people may be exposed to petroleum pollution. No new permits could be issued near those places starting in 2023.
“These are big, much-needed steps to halt some of the oil industry’s most damaging practices,” said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “Although Gov. Newsom already has the power to protect Californians from oil industry pollution, he’s been issuing new permits left and right since taking office. And while Newsom should have adopted community setbacks already, he has yet to deliver. We applaud Sens. Wiener and Limón for showing the governor what it means to fight climate change and protect frontline communities.”
Frontline communities have been calling for years for a setback to help protect the health and safety of nearby residents. A statewide study by the California Council on Science and Technology recommended in 2015 that setbacks be instituted around all oil and gas wells to protect against the grave health risks from pollution.
Gov. Newsom directed the state oil and gas regulator to adopt new health-and-safety rules over a year ago. He later promised a draft rule would be issued by the end of 2020, a deadline his regulators failed to meet. The bill’s 2,500-foot buffer zones would take effect if Gov. Newsom fails to adopt an equal or greater setback by July 2022.
Overwhelming scientific evidence has shown that fracking and other oil and gas activities harm the health of nearby residents. Many chemicals used in the production process are known to cause cancer or other adverse health effects. Oil and gas production also has detrimental effects on water quality, air quality, wildlife and climate.
A recent Harvard University study found that 34,000 premature deaths occurred in California in a single year due to fossil fuel pollution. Globally an estimated 8.7 million people died of pollution attributable to fossil fuels in a single year. Those figures did not include deaths from wildfires, extreme heatwaves, stronger hurricanes and other fatal weather events intensified by climate change.
The bill would also phase out by 2027 dangerous extraction processes like cyclic steam injection, which was linked to multiple million-gallon spills in the last two years and sinkholes that resulted in one worker death in 2011. The enormous energy required to conduct cyclic steam injection is a major reason three-quarters of the state’s current oil production is as climate-damaging as notoriously dirty tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada.
“Banning extreme exaction and enacting health-and-safety setbacks are urgently needed steps toward a safe, sustainable future,” said Kretzmann. “Gov. Newsom should put these protections in place now and fight alongside lawmakers to pull out all the stops to make sure this bill passes and moves California toward a cleaner, safer future.”