A bill that would have banned fracking in California by 2027 and prohibited all oil and gas wells from being operated nearby homes, schools, and other populated areas failed in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on Tuesday by a vote of 4-3.
Had it passed, Senate Bill 467, authored by Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Monique Limon (D-Santa Barbara), would have prohibited new or renewed permits to conduct hydraulic fracturing, acid well stimulation treatment, steam flooding, water flooding, and cyclic steaming for the extraction of oil and gas beginning in January 2022. While permits issued in December 2021 and before would still be honored, operations would only be allowed to continue for five more years until the total ban took place. All new or renewed fracking permits within 2,500 feet of homes, schools, health care facilities or long-term care institutions would also have been prohibited by 2022. A final, total ban would have then been set for 2027.
The bill had widely been expected to pass due to many lawmakers publicly expressing support of the bill, with many agreeing with Wiener and Limon that fracking was too much of a risk to the environment and public health. Many also agreed with Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposal to ban fracking in October of 2020.
Republicans on the committee stood firm as expected, explaining that tens of thousands of jobs would be put at risk and that gas prices would climb drastically higher as a result of approving SB 467.
“By banning all in-state oil and gas production, SB 467 will destroy 50,000+ jobs, make California nearly 100% reliant on foreign energy imports, and raise gas prices to as much as $10 per gallon,” said Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee) on Tuesday. “I stand in strong opposition to this ridiculous bill.”
However, impassioned pleas from oil, gas, and other natural resource groups, as well as lawmakers bringing up the economic fallout it would have on poorer communities and rural areas, quickly reversed many positions.
Two Senators, Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) refused to cast ballots, with one Senator, Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) joining the Republicans in opposition. The Senators noted that the bill didn’t do anything to help transition California away from oil and would simply reduce it without a replacement in energy, as well as costing jobs and increasing expenses for lower-income people.
“Most of my constituents can’t afford expensive electric cars,” said Senator Eggman on Tuesday. “I’m just thinking about the rest of California and in my district: the people who commute, the people who have to drive trucks, the people who drive tractors. None of those are electric.”
“A bill too far”
Wiener and other Senators in favor of the bill were surprised at the outcome, not receiving the five votes needed to pass the bill onto the next committee.
“Obviously I’m very disappointed,” said Senator Wiener on Tuesday. “California really has not done what it needs to do in terms of addressing the oil problem. We have communities that are suffering right now, and the Legislature has repeatedly failed to act. If there is a path to narrowing the bill and getting the votes, we are very open to doing that. We’ll have to see what’s possible.”
Many insiders noted that, even though Wiener had tried to amend the bill to extend the amount of time that oil and gas well within 2,500 too places like homes and schools were allowed to operate for for a phasing out process, the bill had simply gone too far.
“Union members were calling in against the bill,” said “Dana,” a Capitol staffer. “For a bill with significant backing from Democrats, that doesn’t happen too often.”
“Being told that oil and gas production, as well as tens of thousands of jobs, would cease in less than six years has a startling effect. I mean, most oil production in California would end because of this. This was just a bill too far for most people.”
While too early to tell on Tuesday, a similar fracking bill is expected to return sometime next year, likely with many roll backs to avoid hurting the economy of many local areas and with less of a drastic reduction of oil production within the state.