A bill sponsored by a multitude of environmental justice groups, would cut the majority of oil and natural gas production in California. Coupled with environmental groups demanding Gov. Gavin Newsom ban new oil and gas drilling in California and completely phase out fossil fuel extraction, the goal is to put California’s petroleum industry out of business.
As California Globe reported Monday, Assembly Bill 345 by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), requires all new oil and gas development or rework operations that is not on federal land, to be located at least 2,500 feet from a residence, school, childcare facility, playground, hospital, or health clinic.
The bill analysis by the Assembly Natural Resources committee states: “The proximity to oil and gas extraction, including the use of hydraulic fracturing, well acidization, and other nonconventional oil and gas extraction techniques, adversely impacts public health and safety.”
The Assembly Natural Resources Committee heard AB 345 Monday afternoon to a packed house. Despite the hundreds of oil and gas industry workers and union members who attended the hearing to express their opposition to the bill, it passed 4-1 at the hearing, and final vote count was 7-3.
Muratsuchi said his bill is an environmental justice bill “to protect children and families from the harmful effects from the oil industry.” Muratsuchi cited a study from 2015 which reports the impacts, and justifies a buffer zone. Muratsuchi claimed that “vulnerable populations” and people of color are disparately impacted.
Muratsuchi’s witnesses in support of the bill claimed “we’re dying in our communities,” because of oil and gas production facilities near them. Bhavna Shamasunder, an Associate Professor at Occidental College, the author of Community-Based Health and Exposure Study around Urban Oil Developments in South Los Angeles, said health issues in South Los Angeles are significantly higher, and attributed this to the oil and gas production in the region.
A registered nurse with San Francisco General Hospital who called herself an “air pollution critic,” said people of color are disproportionately impacted. “We have so much to clean up in California,” she added, despite that California has the cleanest air in the nation.
Many environmentalist organizations lined up to support AB 345 including the global network of local 350.org groups, California Environmental Justice Alliance, Californians Against Fracking, Indivisible South Bay LA, Courage Campaign, Sierra Club and many more.
California Globe spoke with many of the oil industry workers and engineers. As one engineer said, we are only hearing one side of the story of fossil fuels, because we are barraged with only of the negatives of fossil fuels, instead of their ability to provide cheap, reliable energy for billions of people.
Opponents of the bill range from labor unions State Building And Construction Trades Council Of California, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, African American Farmers of California, Western States Petroleum Association, and Chambers of Commerce from the cities and counties impacted.
Opponents of AB 345 told the committee members they were being fed reckless misinformation, and that the supporters were not operating in facts. They also said the study cited in the bill analysis cited no data, and the Air Resources Board study did not yet have data available. “The entire goal of the bill is to put an end to the oil business,” one opponent said, and would put tens of thousands of workers on the unemployment line.
California oil producers operate under the most stringent environmental regulations in the world. Opponents warned that AB 345 would result in increased imports from foreign sources not operating under the same environmental standards and would
only lead to significantly higher transportation costs and an increase in greenhouse gasses and other emissions associated with bringing that oil into the state.
Opponents noted that the petroleum industry has worked with the state and supported many environmental regulations, but not to eradicate jobs and the industry, leaving many questioning the real need for the bill. “This bill is an emotional argument to get rid of an industry that provided reasonably priced energy,” the WSPA representative said. “California’s greatness was created by the manufacturing segment.” Manufacturing jobs provide high pay and benefits.
California was the fourth-largest producer of crude oil among the 50 states in 2017, after Texas, North Dakota, and Alaska, and, as of January 2018, third in oil refining capacity after Texas and Louisiana.
AB 345 would lead to a loss of approximately 7,000 high wage, blue collar jobs in Los Angeles County given that approximately 87% of all the wells in the City of Los Angeles and 66% of all wells in Los Angeles County would be shut down. In addition, this would result in approximately $205 million in lost tax revenue to the county of Los Angeles and approximately $2 billion overall lost economic output.
The economies of Kern County and Ventura County would be similarly decimated, and oil production in California coastal counties would effectively be wiped out, according to industry associations.