Governor Newsom proposes buffers to protect neighborhoods from oil drilling

State News

LOS ANGELES (KGET) — Today, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a plan to implement buffers in an effort to protect communities from health hazards due to oil drilling.

“Our reliance on fossil fuels has resulted in more kids getting asthma, more children born with birth defects, and more communities exposed to toxic, dangerous chemicals.” Newsom said.

The proposal by the Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) would prohibit new wells from being built 3,200 feet from sensitive areas including homes, schools, hospitals and nursing home. A panel of 15 public health expert helped inform the draft rule.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) president and CEO, issued a statement regarding Newsom’s announcement where she said she thought Newsom was not making the best decision for Californians.

“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,” Reheis-Boyd said in the statement.

Read the full statement on Twitter:

Newsom said that this proposal will benefit more than 2 million California residents who live within a half-mile of oil drilling site and impact about 30 percent of oil operations in the state.

Kern County Assemblyman Vince Fong issued a statement regarding the announcement say that the proposal was “ill-conceived” and “destroys jobs.”

Read the full statement below:

“At a time when Californians need affordable and reliable energy, the Governor is once again choosing to increase energy costs, reduce needed energy production, and puts jobs and careers at risk in Kern County and throughout the state.

“We should be encouraging more energy production for Californians, in California, and by Californians; this regulatory action does the exact opposite.

“These regulations are not supported by data, and will only force California to be more reliant on foreign countries – many with questionable environmental and human rights records.

“The average price of a gallon of gas in California is $4.53 – more than a dollar increase from a year ago. Rising gasoline and energy costs will further deepen the financial burdens of hard working families while their jobs continue to be erased by this Administration.

“Proposing a new regulation, without the voice of energy experts, makes little sense, further proving that the only voices he values are the ones that agree with him.”

Vince Fong, Kern County assemblyman

Kern County chief administrative officer Ryan Alsop issued a statement regarding Newsom’s announcement saying that today’s announcement was “devastating.” Read the full statement below:

“The Governor is working toward goals he believes need to be achieved. We understand this, but we also need him to understand how the decisions he’s making are disproportionately affecting the people living and working in Kern County, California’s energy capital.

“Today’s announcement on new setbacks for wells, in addition to his directives to halt permitting, are devastating and only fast-track the elimination of millions of dollars in local tax revenue used for public safety, first responder and other vital services, and shifts thousands of local jobs out of Kern County, overseas.

“All the administration’s energy production objectives run through Kern County, with our residents and their families paying the heaviest price. We hope to work with our Governor on finding solutions that benefit both the State and County and look forward to providing input and research on this proposed regulation.”

Ryan Alsop, Kern County chief administrative officer

Chad Hathaway, found and CEO of local oil company Hathaway LLC, said that the new proposal will have major negative impacts on the oil industry and workers in Kern County.

“It’s going to affect new growth, it’s going to affect the ability long-term to develop our minerals,” Hathaway said.

This proposal is part of Newsom’s goal to phase out oil production by 2045 and reducing oil production by ending the sale of new gas cars by 2035.

“Our planet is running a fever,” Newsom said.

Newsom said last year California taxpayers spent $99 billion addressing extreme weather events.

“If you’re fiscally conservative, you’re celebrating the announcement we’re making here today,” he said.

Hathaway disagreed.

“Our elected supervisors are not going to allow, on our watch, the taking of their single biggest asset base,” Hathaway said, adding that Californians consume 1.8 million barrels of oil per day. “Kern County has to stand up. Kern County has to fight for what’s theirs and oil is ours. It belongs to everybody here.”

“Whether you like it or not, it basically sustains our way of life,” Hathaway added.

Click here for the full interactive map of Kern County oil wells 

A map of Kern County oil wells. Courtesy: koordinates

California generates about $1.35 billion from oil and gas production, according to the Bureau of Land Management. More than 95 percent of Federal drilling occurs in fields in the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County.

But in the end, Newsom stressed that the driving force behind the proposal is public health.

CalGEM is accepting public comment on the draft rule for 60 days. Public comments can be submitted via email to CalGEMRegulations@conservation.ca.gov or by mailing comments to 801 K Street, Sacramento, California (ATTN: Public Health Regulations) by December 21, 2021. 

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