NewsCovering California


CA lawmakers vote to increase setback distances for oil and gas facilities

Oil Derrick in Bakersfield
Posted at 5:06 PM, Aug 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-01 00:24:07-04

UPDATE: The California state legislature has voted to approve a mandate of setbacks and other safety and environmental quality requirements for oil and gas facilities by a vote of 11-37. The bill now goes to Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature.

Oil and gas were again at the center of debate in Sacramento on Wednesday, as lawmakers voted on Senate Bill 1137. The bill would mandate the creation of setbacks for oil and gas facilities which would place them at least 3,200 feet away from community areas, including homes, schools, and public parks, beginning in January, 2023.

It has other regulations that would begin in the coming years. Beginning in 2025, it would require oil or gas producers to submit a leak detection and response plan and have it in action by 2027. Also in 2025, oil and gas producers would have to meet environmental requirements like pollution controls and leak detection systems. More immediately this bill would require oil and gas producers to post their operation data online for the public to see.

Because this setback and leak detection improvement and reporting mandate would include existing wells, those against the bill say it will be detrimental to the economy. They say oil is still very much needed to power the state despite attempts to move toward greener energy.

Lawmakers advocating for SB 1137 cite a recent study by UC Berkeley, which found a connection between living near oil and gas facilities and increased rates of adverse birth outcomes, respiratory and heart disease, and other health impacts. It is mainly low-income communities and communities of color that would see health benefits from oil and gas facilities being farther from residences and public spaces.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 19 votes in favor of enacting the setback mandate with 9 opposed. The bill requires 21 votes in order to pass. Lawmakers have until midnight Wednesday to finalize their vote.

Kern County Congressmen Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao along with Fresno Congresswoman Connie Conway have signed a joint letter addressed to Governor Gavin Newsom criticizing his previously announced plans to end new oil and gas leases in the central valley.

The letter, reading in part: "This energy production setback will result in increased dependence on other nations particularly our adversaries for energy sources and prevent the United States from achieving energy independence. While we as a country, should continue to develop and pursue other sources of energy we cannot abandon traditional energy sources."