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Gov. Newsom rejects calls to increase domestic oil drilling

Posted at 5:33 AM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 14:19:48-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — We’ve all seen the prices at the pump. As of Tuesday, the state’s average cost of gas was $5.44 a gallon and these prices are expected to continue to rise.

During his State of the State Address, Governor Gavin Newsom touted a tax rebate to combat these rising prices but he rejected calls to increase domestic oil production.

“Freeing us once and for all from the grasp of petro-dictators," Gov. Newsom said as he responded to the issue of increasing gas prices, impacted by the recent war in Ukraine, saying the overseas crisis echoes a “national anger machine fueling division, weaponizing grievance.”

That fuel however is breaking the bank as gas prices hit record highs. Newsom offered his solution but left out the primary details of his plan.

“In January we proposed to pause the gas tax increase. Now, it’s clear we must go further. That's why -- working with Legislative leadership -- I'll be submitting a proposal to put money back in the pockets of Californians, to address rising gas prices," he said.

As President Joe Biden bans Russian oil imports and companies like Shell announce withdrawal from the Russian oil market, the question remains why the state doesn’t put more emphasis on domestic production?

This question was brought up during the Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting just one week before the governor's address.

“We’ve done a myriad of things to try and get the governor off our back and keep permits going," said Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard.

According to the California Geologic Energy Management Division, since, 2019, more permits have been issued to plug and permanently seal existing wells than to drill new ones. Last year, CalGEM issued only 12 new well stimulation treatment permits and denied 109. That’s compared to 2020 when 83 permits were issued and only 57 were denied.

“Certainly current events have demonstrated how important it is for energy independence," said Supervisor Zack Scrivner. "The fact that we import all this oil in California from countries that pollute and have all these terrible human rights records is a travesty, but that’s what’s happening under the governor's policies.”

Ahead of the governor's comments Tuesday, Aera energy, one of Bakersfield's largest petroleum providers that have been denied permits by the state, tweeted the industry has been working to develop advanced carbon capture and storage technology that could “create a lower carbon energy future for CA while helping the state meet its ambitious climate goals.”

Congressman Kevin McCarthy sent a letter to Governor Newsom, which said in part:

“Your Administration has the ability to harness California’s vast energy resources to help our state and country achieve energy independence, and I implore you to reverse policies you have advanced that harm California-based oil and natural gas producers’ ability to meet our nation’s energy needs and strengthen our national security.

“I have urged the Biden Administration to reassess its current anti-energy stance...Yet, thus far, the Biden Administration foolishly insists on limiting itself – to the chagrin of California families facing average prices above $5 per gallon – from using its full range of powers to help Americans feeling the pain at the gas pump. 

“This is why I implore you to take the lead in bringing needed relief to Californians and Americans across the country by reconsidering California’s current oil and natural gas posture, which has crippled this industry in California, so we can increase domestic energy supplies... “Your Administration can do something immediately to start this process – there are more than 1,000 pending permits for new oil and natural gas wells sitting on the desk of your State Oil and Gas Supervisor that can be approved today.  Allowing these producers to responsibly develop our God-given resources, consistent with state laws and regulations, will only help California consumers and reduce any need for imported Russian oil...

“As Russia continues to attack Ukraine, it is critical that we actively work to replace Russian oil imports – which total about 6.17% of California’s total oil imports – with cleaner American energy that can be produced right here in California by Californians.”