Governor Gavin Newsom added new regulations on natural gas fracking and oil drilling Tuesday, while also calling for the closure of some facilities.
As of Wednesday, gas companies engaging in fracking, the process where gas wells are drilled before pumping them with water to release the gas below, will now have to be independently reviewed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory experts to make sure that all regulations and environmental measures are being taken. The state will also give a separate audit to ensure that all regulations and laws are being met.
Oil companies saw a major new restriction as steam-injected oil drilling was halted indefinitely by the Governor’s orders.
Oil and gas companies will also no longer be able to extract or drill nearby “homes, schools, hospitals, and parks” to protect the safety of local citizens.
These new regulations were made possible by the passage of AB 1057 earlier this year. The new legislation expanded the role and duties of the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), as well changing the divisions name to the Geologic Energy Management Division (Calgem) due to the larger role. With an opening for new regulations, both Calgem and Governor Newsom took advantage of the opportunity.
“These are necessary steps to strengthen oversight of oil and gas extraction as we phase out our dependence on fossil fuels and focus on clean energy sources,” stated Governor Newsom on Tuesday. “This transition cannot happen overnight; it must advance in a deliberate way to protect people, our environment, and our economy.”
Oil and gas companies, as well as a few related industries, opposed the move, calling for the need to have cheaper oil and gas, and saying that it would be better to drill here than overseas because of better environmental standards in California.
Applauding the new regulations were environmental groups and citizen groups, who have long pushed for more regulations. This has been in large part due to environmental dangers, public health dangers, and fracking causing more earthquakes in California every year.
A second chance for AB 345
Many lawmakers also approved of the moves, most notably Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance). Assemblyman Muratsuchi authored Assembly Bill 345 last session, which would have stopped oil drilling to occur nearby several types of buildings. Despite being passed through a committee, AB 345 was delayed until the next session. Governor Newsom’s measures on Tuesday de facto cleared the way for its passage.
“I thank the Governor for his leadership in focusing on public health and safety issues arising from oil and gas drilling operations in California,” said Assemblyman Muratsuchi in a statement. “As the author of AB 345, a bill that proposes minimum oil drilling setbacks from homes, schools and health care facilities to protect vulnerable communities, I have been calling for action to address these urgent issues. I look forward to a robust, inclusive, and expedient rulemaking process to protect the millions of Californians who live and work at or near these drilling sites.”
The closing of Aliso Canyon
Governor Newsom also asked state regulators to start looking for gas and oil facilities to close down in his push for green energy. The Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility outside of Los Angeles was specifically discussed, with Newsom having a third party expert look into alternatives to the facility. Aliso Canyon, the largest natural gas storage facility in the state, has leaked several times in the past and has been called a public health and safety concern. However, eliminating the storage facility would also effectively cripple the chances of natural gas playing a major energy role in California in the future.
With these new regulations now in place, and with more expected to be on the way in the next several years, Governor Newsom is quickly pushing California to more and more green energy usage. Whether or not both fossil fuel and green energy companies can keep up simultaneously with the demand and shift remains to be seen.