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New Legislation Proposes Phase Out Of Oil Fracking, Plus Other Extraction Methods In California

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A pair of state senators serving the California Coast have teamed up to introduce new legislation intended to ban oil fracking, and say they intend to amend it to prohibit oil extraction near homes and schools.

Democratic State Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco and Democratic State Senator Monique Limon of Santa Barbara teamed up to introduce SB 467.  It would ban all new permits for fracking starting in 2022, and phase it out completely by 2027.

Wiener says they plan to amend the bill to restrict oil extraction near place where people, live, work, or are staying.  They want a 2500 foot buffer zone between active oil wells and homes, schools, and health care facilities.

Tara Messing is a staff attorney with the Santa Barbara based Environmental Defense Center.  She says the EDC, and other groups just recently won a battle to stop some of the controversial oil extraction methods from being used in the Cat Canyon area near Santa Maria.  She says the legislation would provide some long sought new protections.

But, the legislators say the effort won’t be easy.  Wiener says similar proposals in the past have failed to make it through the state legislature.  Limon says introduction of the bill forces a new discussion of the issue.

A state regulatory agency is looking at regulations which would limit the proximity of oil projects to homes, schools, and other places close to people.  But, it’s still uncertain what, if anything will come out of that effort.

Wiener says one way or another, something needs to be happen to deal with the issue, which he says falls disproportionately in the front yards of low income communities.  Supporters of of the efforts call it a social justice issue.

The plan also calls for trying to help oil industry workers who might lose jobs as a result of the legislation, perhaps redirecting them to projects like dealing with the state’s thousands of abandoned oil wells.

The oil industry is blasting the proposal.  Officials with the Western State Petroleum Association, which represents the industry, say it’s an example of a disconnect between lawmakers and everyday Californians.

They say in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, the last thing the state should be doing is take steps which would eliminate jobs, or impact the ability to create affordable energy.

Industry officials say California already has the toughest oil industry safeguards in the world.  They claim SB 467 is so broad, and unclear that if it became law, it would in effect lead to a total production ban in California. 

The oil industry has spent tens of millions of dollars in the past to defeat similar efforts to tighten oil extraction laws.

Governor Gavin Newsom has already said he supports the concept of the legislation.  Several month ago, he called on the State legislature to ban fracking, sending the clear message that if a bill passes he will sign it into law.