SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's oil and gas regulator recommended on Thursday the state ban new drilling within 3,200 feet of schools, homes and hospitals to protect public health through what would be the nation's largest buffer zone between oil extraction and community sites.
The draft rule released Thursday would be the nation's largest buffer zone between drilling and community sites if adopted. Environmental groups and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration say it's necessary to protect public health and safety.
The oil industry says it will diminish reliable energy and raise prices. The proposal is part of Newsom's effort to end oil and gas extraction in the state by 2045. Existing wells in those zones would be subject to stricter regulations.
With the industry looming large in Kern County, the county accounts for 70% of the oil production in the state, opinions on the proposal vary.
“Science has confirmed the need for a 3,200 ft setback for communities living close to oil and gas. Residents of environmental justice communities in Kern County, like those living in Lamont, Arvin, Lost Hills who have for decades been suffocated with dangerous gases from the oil facilities surrounding their homes, are finally receiving good news." “Today’s decision is promising, but we need to demonstrate the first step towards health is as important as the profits of the oil companies that are cozy with Kern County politicians.”
Kern County is currently the leading energy provider in California, accounting for about 70 percent of the oil and gas production in the state.
Western Petroleum Association President and CEO Catherine Reheis-Boyd released the following statement:
“Just a few weeks ago, President Biden asked the OPEC nations, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Venezuela, specifically to produce more oil in order to bring energy costs down and ensure reliability. Today, Governor Newsom took an opposing path and proposed a setback regulation that could lead to increased costs and reduce the reliability of our energy supply. His decision was not based on what is best for Californians or science.
“The proposed rule’s true setbacks will be imposed upon California’s families, workers and businesses that need affordable, reliable energy every day. This was not a scientific process, as facts do not support the recommendation, nor were dissenting voices or industry experts even allowed to provide input to the panel. It’s time we call these series of actions, bans, rules and mandates what they are: an activist assault on California’s way of life, economy and people.
“The oil and gas industry is not opposed to setbacks and in fact, has supported many local setbacks that are based on science, data and rigorous health assessments. But this approach by the state will eliminate tax revenues and community benefits, raise costs for everyone and put thousands of people out of work.
“While we are disappointed that the governor continues to lead through fear and division, we will trust and work with the California we know, a citizenry that dismisses the pessimism of bans and mandates and believes that by working together we can create a future that balances the needs of people, environment, energy and equity. Despite what may come from this administration, we will continue to apply research, hard work, investment and the innovative power people working together to solve the big issues of our day.”